On Wednesday, a petition from Yeshiva University to overturn a lower court ruling requiring the New York university to acknowledge a “Pride Alliance” LGBTQ student society was denied by the Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote.
The Supreme Court noted in an unsigned order that the New York state courts had not yet rendered a decision in the matter and that Yeshiva could appeal to the Supreme Court after the New York courts have taken a decision.
The court stated that the motion was refused because it appeared that the petitioners had at least two additional options for expedited or temporary state court remedy.
Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett, disagreed with the court’s decision, stating that lower courts may take “months to rule.”
I see no reason why we shouldn’t grant a stay at this moment, he said.
The First Amendment guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion, and if that clause means anything, it forbids a State from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Alito said in response to the school objecting to the recognition of a group that would have implications that are not consistent with the Torah.
The result is that Yeshiva is almost certainly going to be forced to train its students in line with what it believes to be an inaccurate reading of the Torah and Jewish law for at least some time (and possibly for a lengthy spell), according to Alito.
“Our duty to stand up for the Constitution even when doing so is unpopular”
He said that it is “our duty to stand up for the Constitution even when doing so is unpopular” and that a state imposing its “own mandated interpretation of scripture is a disturbing development that screams out for revision.”
Last week, the order was temporarily stopped by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has authority over the lower court, in an effort to allow the whole court more time to take action.
For the time being, the court’s decision is a rare defeat for Supreme Court proponents of religious freedom.
In two instances from the previous term, the court’s conservative majority made decisions in favour of religious conservatives. In addition, the court supported a Catholic foster care organisation in 2021 that rejected the possibility of same-sex couples serving as foster parents.
Alito has often demanded stronger safeguards for the right to practise one’s religion, including at a speech in Rome in July. Alito declared that “religious liberty is being attacked everywhere.”
A trial judge who rendered a decision against Yeshiva.
A trial judge who rendered a decision against Yeshiva focused on whether the university met the requirements to be considered a religious organisation under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), a law that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation.
Yeshiva maintained that it qualified as a religious organisation, despite the fact that the legislation clearly disallows such businesses.
The court did point out that the institution is regarded as an “educational corporation” in accordance with a 1967 revision to the school’s charter.
Judge Lynn R. Kotler ruled that Yeshiva is not excluded from the legislation because “Yeshiva’s organising documents do not specifically establish that Yeshiva has a religious purpose.”
In addition, the court dismissed the school’s arguments that the NYCHRL infringes on Yeshiva’s First Amendment rights, concluding that the rule governing public accommodations is impartial and applicable to all parties.
According to Kotler, the law “does not target religious practice; its sole purpose is to prevent discrimination, and it applies equally to all places of public accommodation, save for those specifically exempted as distinctly private or a religious corporation organised under the education or religious law.”
The judge disputed the university’s claims by noting that some of Yeshiva’s graduate schools permit LGBTQ groups and that the challengers sought “equal access” and that the institution “need not make a statement promoting a specific perspective.”
The university contends in court documents submitted to the Supreme Court that the lower court’s ruling represents an “unprecedented intrusion into Yeshiva’s church autonomy” and that, as a “deeply religious Jewish university,” it is unable to comply with the ruling because doing so would go against its sincere religious beliefs about how to instil Torah values in its undergraduate students.”
Yeshiva’s attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
The lower court’s ruling, according to Yeshiva’s attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is an “unprecedented” interference with the university’s religious practises and a blatant violation of the university’s First Amendment rights.
Before the court took a decision, Ari Berman, the president of Yeshiva University, released a statement in which he stated that “the Torah influences everything that we do at Yeshiva—from how we teach students to how we administer our dining halls to how we structure our campus.
” We continue to have fruitful conversations with our Rabbis, professors, and students about how we might apply our Torah values to foster an inclusive campus community because we care profoundly about and embrace all of our students, including our LGBTQ students. We merely request that the authorities provide us freedom.
It was premature for the Supreme Court to intervene now, according to a lawyer representing the current and former Yeshiva students who brought the challenge and won in the lower court, because New York appellate courts have not yet made a decision on the merits and the state law issue has not been fully settled.
In court documents, attorney Katherine Rosenfeld argued to the justices that the applicants “not only skip the entire state appellate process, but they also press the Court to address both novel and important First Amendment questions on a rocket docket without the benefit of full briefing or oral argument.”
“This decision has no bearing on the Yeshiva University’s long-standing ability…”
The lower court’s decision “simply mandates,” according to Rosenfeld, that the institution gives the “Pride Alliance” access to the same resources and privileges as its “87 other recognised student clubs.”
According to Rosenfeld, “This decision has no bearing on the Yeshiva University’s long-standing ability to express to all students its truly held convictions about Torah values and sexual orientation.”
In an interview with CNN, Jillian Weinberg, a student at Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, said that Ferkauf recognises LGBTQ organisations even if Yeshiva University’s undergraduate school does not.
Faculty and students at Yeshiva Ferkauf “are concerned about the harm that President Ari Berman’s actions would do to the emotional health and well-being of LGBTQIA+ students and faculty,” the spokesperson stated.
School administrators petitioned the New York Supreme Court after the New York Court of Appeals agreed to hear an appeal of the decision this fall but refused to stay the trial court’s decision.