Jewish university forced to host LGBTQ+ Club

On June 14, a New York Supreme Court Judge ruled that Yeshiva University, a school rooted in Orthodox Judaism, is obligated to recognize LGBTQ+ clubs on campus.

Judge Lynn Kotler ruled that Yeshiva University is not religious organization for legal purposes.

On June 14, a New York County Supreme Court Judge ruled that Yeshiva University, a school with curricula based in Orthodox Judaism, is obligated to recognize LGBTQ+ clubs on campus.

Judge Lynn Kotler ruled that Yeshiva University is not religious organization for legal purposes, and therefore must “immediately grant plaintiff YU Pride Alliance the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges afforded to all other student groups at Yeshiva University.”

In the decision, Judge Kotler admitted that “[t]here is no doubt that Yeshiva has an inherent and integral religious character which defines it and sets it apart from other schools and universities of higher education.”

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However, the judge ruled that since the university is technically registered as an “educational corporation,” it has no protection on the basis of religious freedom. 

Kotler quoted the relevant section of New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which read “Exceptions to and exemptions from the provisions of this title shall be construed narrowly in order to maximize determinants of discriminatory conduct.” 

This extraordinarily narrow view of religious protections, however, is not shared by other New York jurists. 

For example, the Defense referenced a nearly identical case in its arguments called Scheiber v. St. John’s University, which was decided under New York State’s Human Rights Law, which is distinct from New York City's corresponding law.

In that case, the court ruled in favor of the religiously-oriented university. 

Yeshiva University responded to the ruling in comments provided to The Commentator, a Yeshiva student newspaper.

“The court’s ruling violates the religious liberty upon which this country was founded..we firmly disagree with today’s ruling and will immediately appeal the decision," the university's statement reads. 

In September 2020, Yeshiva released a statement addressing concerns from LGBT students about their decision not to recognize an official LGBT club.

In the statement, YU committed to implementing multiple measures to help foster “an inclusive community”,  including “increased support for students who have raised concerns regarding sexual orientation and gender identity,” and “ensuring that there is a clinician on staff with specific LGBTQ+ experience.”

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The Washington Examiner notes that this ruling does not exist in a vacuum.

 "The proposal is largely seen as a targeted effort against the Orthodox Jewish yeshiva schools in New York City after a group of people who were raised in the community said the schools did not provide them with adequate instruction," the outlet reports. "Members of the Orthodox Jewish community say the regulations would violate their First Amendment protections to the free exercise of religion.”

Campus Reform reached out to The Jerusalem PostYeshiva UniversityThe Commentator, and The Washington ExaminerThe Commentator declined to comment

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