Yeshiva University has asked the Supreme Court to intervene in its legal battle over recognizing an LGBTQ student club on religious freedom grounds.
The Manhattan school on Monday filed the emergency application to stay a state court ruling ordering it to register the Yeshiva University Pride Alliance formally.
“Yeshiva is now asking the Court to protect its religious mission from government interference,” high-profile law firm the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the university, said in a press release.
“The lower court rulings would force Yeshiva to put its stamp of approval on a club and activities that are inconsistent with the school’s Torah values and the religious environment it seeks to maintain on its undergraduate campuses,” it said.
Four current and former students filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court last April, claiming the college had denied multiple requests to register a gay-rights group as a student club officially.
The plaintiffs argued that not allowing such a group to be recognized alongside more than 100 other student clubs was discriminatory and violated New York’s human rights law.
“All we wanted to do is find a way we can give support to each other in a way all other students had access to do — except for the queer students,” Beth Weiss, a founding board member of the Pride Alliance, told The Post on Tuesday.
Formal recognition gives student groups space on campus, access to email listservs, the ability to promote the club and its events around the school, and oversight and guidance, Weiss explained.
“If we had just been able to have a club from the beginning, it would’ve been not a big deal,” Weiss said.
“We would’ve been able to have pizza nights and movie nights, and hang out and put out a flyer. The situation would not have escalated.”
A state judge in mid-June ruled in the group’s favor, saying that Yeshiva is not a religious corporation according to its charter — a category exempt from the anti-discrimination state law — and therefore must formally register the club, The New York Times reported at the time.
The school then appealed to a higher state court, which denied its request to grant a stay earlier this month, prompting it to file its petition with SCOTUS.
The school requested a stay “to prevent… grave and irreparable constitutional harm” to its First Amendment rights to religious freedom, according to the 42-page filing.
“This is an unprecedented intrusion into the autonomy of a religious organization and a gross violation of the First Amendment,” the petitioners wrote.
The filing outlines the school’s Jewish character, including other groups officials declined to approve for being “inconsistent with its Torah values” — from student clubs involving shooting, video games, and gambling, to a chapter of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi.
The Becket Fund has been involved in other high-profile religious freedom cases, including a Jewish group that sued former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over COVID-19 restrictions, and Hobby Lobby stores that opposed a mandate to provide contraceptives to employees on religious grounds, according to its website.
“In framing this as a religious emergency that has to be stopped, YU is demonstrating the very homophobia that they claim does not exist on campus,” said Rachael Fried, a university alum and executive director of the nonprofit Jewish Queer Youth.
“The university is inferring that these students are asking to have sex. Instead of listening to what they are actually asking for — a safe space where they can form friendships and community — YU is deliberately confusing queer youth’s need for self-esteem with a non-existent demand for sexual behavior,” Fried added.