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Religious school must recognize LGBTQ rights club after Supreme Court ruling

Yeshiva University has said that recognizing YU Pride Alliance would violate its religious values

SHARE Religious school must recognize LGBTQ rights club after Supreme Court ruling

Alex Cochran, Deseret News

Five days after Justice Sonia Sotomayor intervened in a case to protect a Jewish school, the full Supreme Court has decided to let a lower court ruling against the school stand.

Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution in New York City, must now officially recognize the YU Pride Alliance, at least in the short term. The school has repeatedly said that such recognition violates its religious freedom rights.

“Yeshiva, in consultation with its senior rabbis, concluded that the club would be inconsistent with the religious environment it seeks to maintain on campus,” said one of the school’s attorneys, Eric Baxter, to the Deseret News earlier this month.

That conclusion sparked an ongoing lawsuit, which is currently working its way through the New York legal system. The group of students who filed the suit argue that Yeshiva violated the New York City Human Rights Law.

The school’s supporters, on the other hand, argue that forcing Yeshiva to recognize the YU Pride Alliance violates religious freedom protections.

“We care deeply for and welcome all our students, including our LGBTQ students, and continue to be engaged in a productive dialogue with our rabbis, faculty and students on how we apply our Torah values to create an inclusive campus environment. We only ask the government to allow us the freedom to apply the Torah in accordance with our values,” said Yeshiva’s president, Rabbi Ari Berman, in an Aug. 29 statement.

The Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on the overall battle between the students and Yeshiva. Its new ruling is focused on just one piece of the case: the question of whether the school must recognize the YU Pride Alliance while awaiting a final resolution in the courts.

In her order, released last Friday, Sotomayor said Yeshiva did not need to, although she added that her decision was only temporary and could be changed either by herself or the full court.

On Wednesday, it was indeed changed. A majority of justices said school officials “have at least two further avenues for expedited or interim state court relief.” In other words, they think Yeshiva came to the Supreme Court too soon.

“If applicants seek and receive neither expedited review nor interim relief from the New York courts, they may return to this court,” the new decision said.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett dissented, arguing that Yeshiva University should not be forced to recognize the LGBTQ rights club even on a temporary basis.

“Does the First Amendment permit a state to force a Jewish school to instruct its students in accordance with an interpretation of Torah that the school, after careful study, has concluded is incorrect? The answer to that question is surely ‘no,’” wrote Alito in his dissent.

He added that Yeshiva “would likely win” if and when the full case is before the Supreme Court.