(Reuters) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday allowed Yeshiva University to refuse to recognize an LGBT student club that the Jewish School of New York says violates its religious values, temporarily blocking a judge’s decision ordering him to authorize the group.
Sotomayor has temporarily suspended a judge’s ruling that a city anti-discrimination law required Yeshiva University to recognize YU Pride Alliance as a student club while the school pursues an appeal in lower court. Liberal justice handles certain cases on behalf of a group of states including New York.
A stay issued by Sotomayor on the judge’s injunction will remain in place pending a new order by herself or the full Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority.
The Yeshiva student club application process was scheduled to end on Monday, and the school said that absent court intervention, it would be forced to recognize YU Pride Alliance as a violation of its religious values.
“We are grateful that Judge Sotomayor stepped in to protect Yeshiva’s religious freedom in this case,” Eric Baxter, Yeshiva’s attorney at the conservative legal group Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement.
Katherine Rosenfeld, the club’s attorney, said it will await a final court order and remains committed to creating a safe space for LGBT students on the college campus “to build community and support each other without being discriminated”.
YU Pride Alliance formed informally as a group in 2018, but Yeshiva determined that granting it official status would be “inconsistent with the school’s Torah values and the religious environment it seeks to maintain.” .
The dispute hinges in part on whether Yeshiva is a “religious society” and therefore exempt from New York City’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination by location or service provider. public accommodation.
New York State Judge Lynn Kotler ruled in June that the school’s primary purpose was education, not religious worship, and that it was subject to anti-discrimination law. Kotler also rejected the university’s argument that forcing him to recognize the club would violate his religious freedom protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
After senior state courts in August refused to stay the judge’s ruling, Yeshiva turned to the US Supreme Court, pointing to its religious nature, including that undergraduates are required to engage in intense religious studies.
“As a deeply religious Jewish university, the Yeshiva cannot comply with this order as it would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to train its undergraduate students in Torah values,” the school told Reuters. the Supreme Court.
The Modern Orthodox Jewish University, based in Manhattan, has approximately 6,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. Among the school’s values, according to its website https://www.yu.edu/about/values, is a belief in “the infinite worth of every human being” and “the responsibility to reach out to others with compassion”.
Pushed by its increasingly assertive conservative justices, the US Supreme Court in recent years has expanded religious rights while narrowing the separation between church and state.
During his tenure that ended in June, the court backed a Washington state public high school football coach who refused to stop leading Christian prayers with players on the field after the matches and ruled in favor of Christian families in Maine who sought to access taxpayer money to pay for their children to attend religious schools.
During its next term, which begins Oct. 3, the court will decide a major new legal fight pitting religious freedom against LGBT rights involving an evangelical Christian web designer’s free speech claim according to which she cannot be forced under a Colorado anti-discrimination law to produce gay marriage websites.