Denial of right to remove LGBTQ student group Yeshiva University suspends all student clubs

LGBTQ+ students at Yeshiva University (YU) wanted their own organization, the YU Pride Alliance. Like all bands with common interests, they wanted to celebrate their commonalities, offer each other support and encouragement, and socialize with like-minded people — you know, like the chess club.

But YU backed down, saying it went against their religious beliefs. And it compromised their ability to discriminate “the other,” as their instruction manual insisted they do.

The student group sued in state court and won. The Court argued that although YU had many religious elements, it was first and foremost an educational institution. While places of worship – synagogues, churches and mosques – could discriminate as they pleased, YU did not fall into this category. You don’t even have to be Jewish (although you do have to take Jewish studies) to attend college.

Judge Lynn Cotler explained her decision thus,

“Yeshiva is a university that primarily provides pedagogical education. The religious character of the Yeshiva, evidenced by the required religious studies, observance of Orthodox Jewish law, student attendance at religious services, etc., are all secondary to the primary purpose of the Yeshiva.

The question went to the Supreme Court of the United States where, somewhat surprisingly, Roberts and Kavanaugh joined liberals in saying that the school should stop hurting people – at least temporarily. The case now goes to state court, where it will decide what it will decide. And the case will undoubtedly fall to SCOTUS anyway.

YU was not happy. And he retaliated by temporarily closing all student organizations on campus. What a whistle crisis.

As NPR reported:

Katie Rosenfeld, attorney for the YU Pride Alliance, said the decision to cancel all club activities “rather than accept an LGBTQ peer support group on campus is a throwback to 50 years ago , when the city of Jackson, Mississippi, closed all public swimming pools rather than comply with court desegregation orders.”

Too? Barely. Christians used the Bible—especially Ham’s story—to justify their enslavement of black Africans and their Jim Crow laws against new post-war African American citizens.

Far be it from me to deprive someone of their religious freedom – until they use it to discriminate against their fellow citizens. No religion should give anyone the right to be a fanatic in the public square. And YU is in the public square.

Of course, the school authorities don’t see it that way. As Rabbi Ari Berman, president of YU, wrote:

“Every faith-based university in the country has the right to work with its students, including its LGBTQ students, to establish the clubs, places and spaces that correspond to its religious tradition. Yeshiva University simply seeks that same right to self-determination. The Supreme Court has given us the road map to find a speedy remedy and we will follow its instructions. At the same time, as our commitment and love for our LGBTQ students is unwavering, we continue to reach out inviting them to work together to create a more inclusive campus life consistent with our Torah values.

To say that you are committed to your LGBTQ students and that you love them, but at the same time tell them that they are not part of your values, is a little rude. It’s like saying you love your dog by beating him with a stick.

I am not an expert in theology and dogma. In a debate with a Talmudic scholar, they would knock me out in the first round. However, I was educated in Anglican schools, so I have a familiarity with the Bible. In religious tradition, Moses wrote the Pentateuch or Torah, which includes Genesis. Modern scholarship indicates that the traditionalists are wrong, as the Torah was written centuries after the death of Moses.

Which means an anonymous guy wrote it. Keeping this in mind, Genesis 1:26-27 says:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, that he may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over cattle and all wild animals and over all creatures that move on the ground.

27 So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

I always thought it was a trick that God could appear both male and female. But I’ll play along. Why can’t God also be gay and straight? Or transgender?

I realize there are later bible verses where iron age scribes wrote a list of no-no’s including gay intimacy. But there are many other prohibitions that many religious people are now unaware of. And while women benefited back then, most religions have grown enough to recognize that women should be allowed to own property and vote. But for some reason (probably because they don’t want to imagine two men having sex), religious fundamentalists can’t get past homophobia.

Religion can be a boon to the faithful. But I’m sad that some religions have to keep hating people just for who they are.

As the anthem says:

“All things bright and beautiful
All creatures big and small
All things wise and wonderful
“It is God who created them all”

Comments are closed.