Supreme Court temporarily blocks ruling that required Jewish university to recognize LGBTQ group

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Friday allowed an Orthodox Jewish university in New York to deny official recognition to an LGBTQ student group, the latest in a series of rulings in favor of religious rights.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a brief order granted an emergency request made by Yeshiva University, which claims that recognizing the group would be contrary to its sincere religious beliefs. Sotomayor has responsibility for emergency applications originating from New York.

The dispute is the latest conflict between religious rights and LGBTQ rights to reach the High Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority.

Friday’s ruling overshadowed a New York state judge, who ruled in June that the university was bound by New York City human rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The university argues that it is a religious institution and therefore should be exempted from the law. The university argues that requiring the group to support would be a “clear violation” of its rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects the free practice of religion. Sotomayor said the lower court’s decision would remain “pending for further orders” from the Supreme Court, suggesting that the court may issue a more detailed order in the coming days.

“Yeshiva should not have been compelled all the way to the Supreme Court to obtain such a general decision in favor of her First Amendment rights. We are grateful that Justice Sotomayor defended Yeshiva’s religious freedom in this case. took the step.” Eric Baxter, an attorney for the religious freedom legal advocacy group Beckett, is representing Yeshiva.

The Pride Alliance group, which first sought accreditation in 2019, sued in April 2021, saying the university was required to submit its request because it is a place of public accommodation that is covered by anti-discrimination law.

Pride Alliance attorney Katherine Rosenfeld said Friday that the group is “committed to making space for LGBTQ students” on campus and will await a final action from the Supreme Court.

Yeshiva, which describes itself in court papers as “an intensely religious Jewish university”, has said that authorities, after consulting Jewish religious scholars, concluded that an official LGBTQ club was inconsistent with its religious values. Will happen. The university was founded in 1897 for religious purposes and maintains that character even as it has expanded its educational scope to include secular programs.

New York City’s anti-discrimination law includes exemptions for religious organizations, but Manhattan-based Judge Lynn Kotler concluded that yeshiva did not meet the relevant criteria.

The Pride Alliance, which included four individual plaintiffs, said in its response that the university’s request was premature and questioned whether there was an emergency that required the intervention of the Supreme Court. The group’s lawyers said all universities would have to do if the judge’s order is allowed to take effect, which gives the group access to facilities already enjoyed by 87 other groups.

The lawyers said in court papers, Kotler’s decision “does not touch the university’s well-established right for all students to express their sincerely held beliefs.” He notes that an LGBTQ club has existed within the university’s law school for decades and that the university’s student rights bill states that New York human rights law applies to students.

Members of the Pride Alliance have said they plan events supporting LGBTQ rights for the coming weeks, including sometime around the Jewish holidays.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority has strongly supported religious rights in recent cases, including several in its final term that ended in June. Among those rulings, the court ruled in favor of a high school football coach who led a prayer on the field after the game, raising concerns from school officials that his actions could be seen as government endorsement of a religion prohibited under the First Amendment. can be seen in.

The court, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, has also weighed several cases of LGBTQ rights against religious rights, ruling in 2021 in favor of the Catholic Church-affiliated agency requiring Philadelphia to attend its foster care services. Because the group refused to have children with gay couples. In 2018, the court ruled in Colorado in favor of a conservative Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Along similar lines, justices are set to hear oral arguments this fall in a case involving a Colorado web designer who wants the court to decide that, based on his evangelical Christian beliefs, he should be considered same-sex. There is no need to design wedding websites. The court is currently on its summer break, with the couple’s new term starting in October.

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