A New York State judge has ruled that the Yeshiva University must approve the creation of an LGBT student group on its campus, even though the club goes against the Jewish institution’s guiding religious beliefs.
Lynn Kotler, a judge in the New York County Supreme Court, ruled Tuesday that Yeshiva University Pride Alliance must be provided with “full equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges afforded to all other student groups.”
In her ruling, Kotler said Yeshiva is chartered as an “educational corporation” rather than a religious institution, and therefore is subject to New York City’s anti-discrimination law, just like other secular colleges and universities.
“The record shows that the purpose students attend Yeshiva is to obtain an education, not for religious worship or some other function which is religious at its core,” the judge wrote. “Thus, religion is necessarily secondary to education at Yeshiva.”
The dispute has been going on for years at the Manhattan-based university. After Yeshiva administrators overruled a student government decision to recognize the pride club, a group of pro-LGBT student activists filed a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, alleging that the university has engaged in discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Yeshiva vowed to appeal the ruling.
The university, whose curriculum is largely based on the Modern Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law, argues that while it is not registered as sectarian, it has an obvious religious educational mission.
“The court’s ruling violates the religious liberty upon which this country was founded,” a spokesperson for the university said in a statement, warning that the decision could establish a legal precedent for courts to interfere in the internal affairs of religious schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations.
“Any ruling that Yeshiva is not religious is obviously wrong,” the spokesperson added. “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.”
“While we love and care for our students, who are all—each and every one—created in God’s image, we firmly disagree with today’s ruling and will immediately appeal the decision.”
The ruling also comes amid the New York Department of Education’s proposed regulation that would tighten state oversight of private schools sparking much concern among advocates of religious liberty and parental rights, especially those in the Orthodox Jewish community.
If implemented, the new regulation would force private schools to adopt an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that provided in public schools. This means traditional Jewish schools, known as yeshivas, would have to spend less time teaching religious content and instead, dedicate more teaching time to secular subjects.
“This violates the freedom of parents to choose their own preferred form of education as part of their religious freedom,” advocacy group Coalition of Jewish Values said in a Jun. 2 letter opposing the regulation, which it said only appeases activist groups that have “animosity towards Orthodox Jewish life.”