Yeshiva U. Sued By LGBTQ+ Student Organization

Today I’m on the religious liberty/persecution beat.

The New York County Supreme Court has ruled that Yeshiva University in Manhattan must allow a LGBTQ student club on campus. The court cited the school’s status as “a non-religious organization.”

Yep. Sure did.

However a brief look at their web-site says otherwise.

Yeshiva is a private Modern Orthodox Jewish University. But, according to this court, because Yeshiva is a “place or provider of public accommodation” it has violated the New York City Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the city.

It must allow student clubs, organization on campus even if those clubs and organizations have views, beliefs, or practices that are diametrically opposed to Orthodox Jewish teaching.

“Any ruling that Yeshiva is not religious is obviously wrong,” said Hanan Eisenman, a university spokesman, in a statement. “As our name indicates, Yeshiva University was founded to instill Torah values in its students while providing a stellar education, allowing them to live with religious conviction as noble citizens and committed Jews.”

The court’s decision, he said, “violates the religious liberty upon which this country was founded” and “permits courts to interfere in the internal affairs of religious schools, hospitals and other charitable organizations.” (While many non-Orthodox Jewish congregations are supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, Orthodox leaders tend to interpret the Torah as promoting more traditional ideas of gender and sexuality.)

Plaintiffs (Club) seek an order restraining the defendants (School) from continuing their refusal to officially recognize the YU Pride Alliance as a student organization because of the members sexual orientation or gender and/or YU Pride Alliance's status, mission, and/or activities on behalf of LGBTQ students.  Plaintiffs further seek an order granting YU Pride Alliance "the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of Yeshiva University, because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender of the YU Pride Alliance's members, and/or the YU Pride Alliance's status, mission and/or activities on behalf of LGBTQ students."  [emphasis added]


Approximately 80% of its 6400 undergraduates live on campus. This ruling would allow members of YU Pride Alliance to live on campus with a status based on that member’s “perceived…gender.” Pride Alliance Members possessing anatomically ‘male members’ but who identify as female will be allowed to live in female dormitory space. Yeshiva would need to provide full and equal accommodations to any biologically male student who self-identifies as a female or woman.

Why? Judge Lynn Kotler asserted that Yeshiva’s educational purpose took precedence over its religious purpose.

“Yeshiva is a university which provides educational instruction, first and foremost. Yeshiva’s religious character evidenced by required religious studies, observation of Orthodox Jewish law, students’ participation in religious services, etc. are all secondary to Yeshiva’s primary purpose,” Kotler ruled.

Source:  New York County Clerk 06/24/2022

The school’s Religious Liberty constitutional claims were denied. The school is appealing.

A senior at Yeshiva, Natan Ehrenreich, writing in a June 20 National Review piece disputed Judge Kotler’s primary/secondary purpose argument:

It is immediately apparent from the moment one steps foot on campus that YU is a 'religious corporation.'  Pictures of rabbis are plastered on every wall and elevator door.  Study halls are filled with eager men and women who spend many hours each day probing the depths of the Bible and Talmud.  Walk into any YU building at around 8:00am and you'll find at least ten men gathered together to pray, donning their tefillin (ritual phylacteries) as God commanded.  These men are religious.  Their institution is religious.

Similar “place or provider of public accommodation” laws are changing around the country with “perceived gender” or “gender identity” language being added to these statutes.

Religious Liberty claims will be tested.

Religious Schools, Hospitals, Charitable Organizations, Churches. etc., in certain jurisdictions had better get their legal team together. Claims based on religious autonomy, the Free Exercise Clause, the Free Speech Clause and the Assembly Clause of the U.S. Constitution will be adjudicated.

This case probably ends up in the U.S. Supreme Court.