University Goes to War Against Order to Violate its Own Faith Teachings

A Jewish university in New York is appealing, on an emergency basis, to the U.S. Supreme Court for protection against a ruling that it must violate its faith teachings and approve a student “pride alliance.”

The fight was profiled in a report in the Federalist.

It is Yeshiva University that is arguing it “cannot comply with that order because doing so would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to form its undergraduate students Torah values.”

“To avoid the irreparable harm that would come to Yeshiva, its students, and its community from the government-enforced establishment of a Yeshiva Price Alliance club, applicants respectfully request an immediate stay…”

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The appeal pointed out that everyone involved admitted that the decision on the student organization was a “religious” decision, made in consultation with its senior rabbis.

“And all parties agree that Yeshiva has a deeply religious character as a Jewish university. Plaintiffs admit that they want to force the creation of a Yeshiva Price Alliance precisely to alter Yeshiva’s religious environment – for example, by distributing school-sponsored ‘Pride Pesach’ packages for Passover – and to upend Yeshiva’s understanding of Torah, with which plaintiffs disagree.”

The Federalist report explained the question is whether religious institutions must “abandon certain core tenets to operate in the public square.”

The lower court’s order that the school bends its religious faith to accommodate a social and political agenda came from a state supreme court judge.

The report said, “Yeshiva maintains that the ‘message of Torah on [the LGBT] issue is nuanced, both accepting each individual with love and affirming its timeless prescriptions.’ Accordingly, although Yeshiva admits LGBT students, as it is ‘wholly committed to and guided by Halacha and Torah values,’ it cannot lend its ‘ name or seal of approval to clubs that appear ‘[in]consistent with [its] Torah values.’ Likewise, Yeshiva has declined to approve ‘proposed student clubs involving shooting, videogames, and gambling,’ as well as a proposed chapter of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi.”

The fight focuses on whether Yeshiva is a religious corporation under the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibits any “place or provider of public accommodation” from discriminating on perceived gender and sexual orientation.

The gay student group contends the school refused to recognize it, in violation of the law. But, the report said, Yeshiva explained it is exempt from those requirements.

Judge Lynn Kotler claimed it was not a religious corporation even though, the report said, “Yeshiva’s motto — ‘Torah Umadda’ — reflects its core mission: the pursuit of rigorous religious and secular studies. All students engage in the high-level study of Hebrew scripture, the Talmud, and the vast corpus of Jewish texts. The academic calendar is in harmony with the Jewish calendar, observing the Sabbath and all Jewish holy days. The campuses are sex-segregated following Jewish law, the food offered is strictly kosher, doorways have mezuzot affixed, and each student has a mashgiach ruchani (spiritual advisor).”

Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explained that the state court was wrong to reject the First Amendment claim.

He explained, “When the secular authorities of New York purport to overrule the religious authorities at Yeshiva — and when the civil courts insist the First Amendment has nothing to say about the matter — something has gone terribly wrong. And when those courts also insist upon ‘immediate’ obedience by religious authorities to civil ones, this Court’s intervention is urgently needed to preserve the status quo and protect Applicants’ religious character, at least until this Court can consider the case on its merits.”

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