Jewish University Battles in the US Supreme Court to Block LGBT Club

In an ongoing battle between religious rights and anti-discrimination laws, a New York City Jewish University has announced it will “pause” all student groups following a US Supreme Court decision allowing an LGBTQ group on campus.

YU is the oldest Jewish institution of higher learning in America. The University asserts that the students are expected to uphold Torah values on campus, requiring most undergraduates to spend up to five hours daily in religious studies.

In 2020, YU Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student group, sued the school after it refused to recognize them officially. The University claims the court case is “solely about YU’s freedom to act according to its values without government interference.” The University further argues that it welcomes LGBTQ students and has not approved others in the past, such as gun clubs and a Jewish fraternity. The University maintains that the matter changed entirely from an LGBTQ discussion to its institution's future defense.

After the New York County Supreme Court ordered the group's approval, the University appealed. The New York Appellate Division and New York Court of Appeals rejected the motion. On August 29, the University requested the US Supreme Court intervene. “The First Amendment protects Yeshiva’s right to practice its faith,” says official court documents.

The Supreme Court, in turn, rejected the request, stating that all avenues of appeal had not yet been exercised and that upon completion of said avenues, the University may return to the Supreme Court. The Court has indicated that more will be addressed on the topic. Many see this ruling as an attempt to close off every possible legal challenge, giving the Supreme Court the absolute and final say.

While waiting for the legalities to play out, the University decided to suspend all student group activities. A lawyer on the student’s side, Katie Rosenfeld, called the reaction divisive and shameful. The University’s tactic, she said, is “a throwback to fifty years ago when the city of Jacksonville, Mississippi, closed all public swimming pools rather than comply with court orders to desegregate.”

Supporters of the separation of church and state have consistently been disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decisions over the last several months. The American Civil Liberties Union stated in July, "The court has adopted an approach that would see the lines between church and state hopelessly blurred, if not eliminated altogether.” Susan Jacoby, an American atheist, secular author, and speaker, said, “We are hearing a good deal about each new Supreme Court decision that seems designed to replace the world’s first secular government with a twenty-first-century version of theocracy.”

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