Yeshiva University pauses all clubs to avoid opening one for LGBTQ+ students

The student body was informed that the suspension will last until the administration’s appeals to the courts on the issue are completed.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Yeshiva University (YU) has decided to suspend all its student clubs in order to avoid allowing a court-ordered establishment of one for LGBTQ+ undergraduates.

“The university will hold off on all undergraduate club activities while it immediately takes steps to follow the roadmap provided by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect YU’s religious freedom,” the Orthodox school’s administration wrote in an email to the student body.

YU had applied to the Supreme Court some three weeks ago for a stay in the order of a New York court to immediately allow the formation of the Pride Alliance club. It had followed a state court’s denial of their request for a stay while they appealed the original decision.

The Supreme Court temporarily froze the order before deciding to hear the case. Last Wednesday, however, in a 5-4 decision, the court denied YU’s request because it said the school still had two pending appeals remaining on the state level, so it was premature of it to apply to the highest court in the land.

The ruling was therefore technical in nature, and the judges made clear that if YU lost their appeals, it could turn back to them to hear the case.

The four dissenting judges also gave hope to the institution. The New York state court had ruled that YU was first and foremost an educational institution, and as such it had to abide by the state’s non-discrimination laws, and admit the Pride Alliance club that had sued for acceptance at the school.

But Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett backed the school’s argument in the original case that it was a religious institution and official acceptance of such a club would violate its beliefs. They confirmed YU’s entitlement to refuse the group on the Constitution’s first Amendment right of religious freedom.

“Yeshiva would likely win if its case came before us,” the conservative justices wrote.

While the school’s message referred to the nearly month-long period of Jewish holidays beginning next week, when undergraduate classes are barely held, the email did not clearly state that the clubs would be opened after the holiday season ended.

One of the YU Pride Alliance lawyers, Katie Rosenfeld, compared the blanket closure to American racial discrimination of half a century ago.

The “shameful” decision, she said, “is a throwback to 50 years ago when the city of Jackson, Mississippi, closed all public swimming pools rather than comply with court orders to desegregate.”

“The Pride Alliance seeks a safe space on campus, nothing more,” she said. “By shutting down all club activities, the YU administration attempts to divide the student body and pit students against their LGBT peers.”

YU’s president, Rabbi Dr. Avi Berman, tried to strike a conciliatory note after the Supreme Court decision. Although the school would “follow the instructions” of the justices, he said, “as our commitment to and love for our LGBTQ students are unshakeable, we continue to extend our hand in invitation to work together to create a more inclusive campus life consistent with our Torah values.”