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Jewish university must recognize LGBT club, judge rules

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The Jewish Yeshiva University in New York City is not a “religious corporation” and must recognize an LGBT club as the city’s anti-discrimination law demands, a state judge has ruled.

New York Supreme Court First Judicial District Judge Lynn Kotler directed the university in an order last Tuesday to give the school’s Pride Alliance “full equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges afforded to all other student groups at Yeshiva University.”

In 2020, seven LGBT student activists and allies filed a lawsuit with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, claiming the university founded in 1886 discriminated by not recognizing the gay pride group.

In the ruling, Kotler said YU is chartered not as a religious organization but is considered an “educational corporation,” and it is, therefore, subject to New York City Human Rights Law.

“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,” Kotler wrote. “Thus, religion is necessarily secondary to education at Yeshiva.”

The order also said that YU and its president, Ari Berman, 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.”

Jewish Queer Youthwhich represents the interests of gay Orthodox Jews, praised the decision as “a victory for human dignity, mental health and safety on campus.”

However, the Manhattan-based university believes the court’s orders violate its religious liberty and would impact many other institutions maintained by religious groups.

“The decision permits courts to interfere in the internal affairs of religious schools, hospitals and other charitable organizations,” the university told the campus student newspaper, The Commentator.

“Any ruling that Yeshiva is not religious is obviously wrong,” the statement continued. “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 everyone — created in God’s image, we firmly disagree with today’s ruling and will immediately appeal the decision.”

Orthodox Jewish law prohibits homosexuality. However, within Modern Orthodox settings, there is some acceptance of those who identify as queer.

YU, inspired by modern and centrist Orthodox Judaism, has four campuses in New York City and provides yeshiva and Judaic studies programs. Although most university students are Jewish, not all subscribe to the Jewish faith.

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