US Supreme Court asks Yeshiva University to license LGBT student club

The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

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September 14 (Reuters) – Yeshiva University cannot ban an LGBT student club after the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block a judge’s decision ordering the New York Jewish school to officially recognize the band.

The judges, in a 5-4 decision, refused to stay a state court ruling that a city anti-discrimination law required Yeshiva University to recognize YU Pride Alliance as a student club while the school was pursuing an appeal in a lower court.

The ruling appeared to send the case back to the state court system. “The request is denied because it appears that the plaintiffs have at least two other expedited or interim remedies available to them in state court,” the decision reads.

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Conservative justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented. Liberal Judge Sonia Sotomayor had temporarily blocked the judge’s order last Friday while judges considered the university’s request. Read more

Eric Baxter, an attorney with the conservative legal group Becket Fund for Religious Liberty representing the school, pointed out that if the state courts don’t grant relief, “they can go back to the Supreme Court to seek its protection again. . We will follow the instruction of the court. ”

YU Pride Alliance attorney Katie Rosenfeld called the decision “a victory for Yeshiva University students who simply seek unchallenged basic rights at peer universities.”

“At the end of the day, students at Yeshiva University will have a peer support club this year, and the sky is not going to fall,” Rosenfeld added.

The group formed unofficially in 2018, but Yeshiva determined that granting it official status would be “inconsistent with the school’s Torah values ​​and the religious environment it seeks to maintain.”

The dispute hinges in part on whether Yeshiva is a “religious society” and therefore exempt from New York City’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination by location or service provider. public accommodation.

New York State Judge Lynn Kotler ruled in June that the school’s primary purpose was education, not religious worship, and that it was subject to anti-discrimination law. Kotler also rejected the university’s argument that forcing him to recognize the club would violate his religious freedom protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In his Wednesday dissent, Alito wrote, “The First Amendment guarantees the right to free exercise of religion, and if that provision means anything, it prohibits a state from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of Holy Scripture. Yet, New York did just that in this case, and it’s disappointing that a majority of this court refuses to grant relief.”

After higher state courts in August refused to stay the judge’s decision, Yeshiva turned to the United States Supreme Court.

“As a deeply religious Jewish university, the Yeshiva cannot comply with this order as it would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to train its undergraduate students in Torah values,” the school told Reuters. the Supreme Court.

The Modern Orthodox Jewish University, based in Manhattan, has about 6,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. Among the school’s values, according to its website, are a belief in “the infinite worth of every human being” and “the responsibility to reach out to others with compassion.”

Pushed by its increasingly assertive conservative justices, the US Supreme Court in recent years has expanded religious rights while narrowing the separation between church and state.

During its next term, which begins Oct. 3, the court will decide a major new legal battle pitting religious freedom against LGBT rights involving an evangelical Christian web designer’s free speech claim. which she cannot be forced under a Colorado anti-discrimination law to produce gay marriage websites.

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Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham

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