(June 21, 2022 / JNS) Yeshiva University is expected to appeal a ruling by a judge with the New York State Supreme Court that it must allow YU Pride Alliance, a group representing LGBTQ students, to be a formal student organization.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in April 2021 by a group of students against YU, its president Rabbi Ari Berman and then-vice provost for student affairs Chaim Nissel for discrimination.
The school had argued that as a religious institution, accommodating an LGBTQ student group and providing them with the use of facilities was inconsistent with its mission. Orthodox Judaism views the act of homosexuality as antithetical to Torah values and teachings.
In making her June 14 ruling, Judge Lynn Kotler denied YU’s claim that it is a “religious corporation,” noting that in its founding documents, it calls itself an “educational corporation” for educational purposes.
“There 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,” wrote Kotler, “However, Yeshiva must fit with the term of ‘religious corporation’ as the legislature intended … . 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, student participation in religious services, etc., are all secondary to Yeshiva’s primary purpose.”
“The court’s ruling violates the religious liberty upon which this country was founded,” a YU spokesperson told a YU student paper, The Commentator. “The decision permits courts to interfere in the internal affairs of religious schools, hospitals, and other charitable organizations. Any ruling that Yeshiva is not religious is obviously wrong.”
“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,” continued the spokesperson. “While we love and care for our students, who are all—each and every one—created in God’s image, we firmly disagree with [the] ruling and will immediately appeal the decision.”
Considered by many as the flagship educational institution for Modern Orthodox students, Yeshiva University includes separate undergraduate schools for men and women, as well as several graduate schools, including the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Sy Syms School of Business, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law.
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