The US Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a bid by Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish college in Manhattan, to stop an LGBTQ+ student organization from forming on campus and is sending the issue back to New York courts, where YU has lost before.
The Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling against the Jewish university denied Yeshiva’s request to put a New York County Supreme Court decision on pause. As a result, the university will now need to go through the New York court system.
Mark Rienzi, president of The Becket Fund which is representing YU said before the ruling, “The stakes couldn’t be higher, not just for Yeshiva but for the country. That’s why people of many different faiths filed briefs asking the court to protect Yeshiva. If Yeshiva can’t even make religious decisions on its own campus, then no religious group is safe from government control.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the majority decision said that “The application is denied because it appears that applicants have at least two further avenues for expedited or interim state court relief.” Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the majority opinion against YU.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented from the majority decision. Alito, writing the dissent, stated that the First Amendment allows the Jewish university to freely exercise its religion. “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.”
The First Amendment guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion, and if that provision means anything, it prohibits a State from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of Holy Scripture. Yet that is exactly what New York has done in this case, and it is disappointing that a majority of this Court refuses to provide relief.” He added, “It is our duty to stand up for the Constitution even when doing so is controversial.”
Alito continued, “I doubt that Yeshiva’s return to state court will be fruitful, and I see no reason why we should not grant a stay at this time. It is our duty to stand up for the Constitution even when doing so is controversial.”
On June 14, New York County Supreme Court Judge Lynn Kotler ruled that due to the school having been chartered as a nonreligious organization, it must be in compliance with the New York City Human Rights Law. In a previous ruling Kotler said the Jewish institution must “immediately grant plaintiff YU Pride Alliance the full equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges afforded to all other student groups at Yeshiva University.”
She also ordered that the school be “permanently restrained 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.”
William McGurn , the former Chief Speechwriter for President George W. Bush, in The Wall Street Journal in a piece titled, “Yeshiva University Case Means We’re All Jews Now” said, “What a cramped view this is, as if religion can be so easily separated into neat and distinct boxes—especially at a Jewish university.”