Ethically And Legally, Yeshiva University Can’t Have It Both Ways

Yeshiva University is in a legal fight with a group of LGBTQ students, the YU Pride Alliance, that demands that the Modern Orthodox Jewish university recognize their campus club. To make the argument that it can refuse to do so, Yeshiva is claiming that it is a religious institution, which would which would exempt it from anti-discrimination laws under the First Amendment.

There’s a problem, though, a rather substantial one. Before the 2021 lawsuit, Yeshiva held itself out as an educational institution, which made it eligible for public funds but also meant that it could not defy city and state non-discrimination laws. The institution has received an estimated $230 million in taxpayer dollars to pay for the construction and renovation of its facilities, among other expenses, when it claimed to be an educational institution before 2021.

Now Yeshiva is stuck. The chairman of the State Senate Judiciary Committee has stated, “Regardless of anyone’s motives, misrepresentation to procure public money is dishonest and could potentially violate state law.” If it acquired those state funds legitimately, then Yeshiva cannot deny the students their organization without breaking the law. If the school has always been a religious institution as it now claims, it engaged in fraud by claiming otherwise to get $230 million dollars.Yeshiva is trying to “thread the needle,” arguing that its administrators founded a religiously-based club for members of the LBGTQ student community last year. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs rejected that solution on the grounds that it imposed rules on their club to which other clubs were not subjected. Yes, that’s basically Brown v. Bd. of Education: “Separate is unequal.” As an interim tactic last September, Yeshiva “paused” all student clubs on campus after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a lower court ruling that ordered the school to recognize an LGBTQ group.

“Yeshiva has already established a path forward to continue providing loving and supportive spaces for its LGBTQ students,” a spokesman for the university said. “Well-meaning politicians are kindly asked to learn the facts before attacking Jewish education.” Bravely spoken: the best defense is an offense!

But it sure sounds like whistling in the dark to me.

I don’t know how the legal case will turn out, but ethically, Yeshiva flip-flopping from being an educational institution to being a religious one lacks integrity and honesty.


Source: New York Times

11 thoughts on “Ethically And Legally, Yeshiva University Can’t Have It Both Ways

  1. This reminds me a little of Groucho Marx saying he’d never be a member of any club that would let him in. If Orthodox Judaism condemns homosexuality, why would you go to an even marginally Orthodox university? It’s like the Catholic church allowing gay and lesbian members but telling them they can’t have gay or lesbian sex. Why not just join the Episcopal church or the UU? Isn’t being gay or lesbian sufficiently fraught without seeking additional windmills to tilt after?

  2. Taking government money gives the government the ability to tell you what to do. It’s a trap and people need to stop falling into it. Self-sufficient people and institutions are independent people and institutions. Government dependent people and institutions are slaves to the state.

    • Not just taking government money, but also government tax-exempt status.

      Religious leaders happen to take a unfavored position on some candidate or solution to the political problem du jour? Just have the IRS tap their shoulder and say “Gee, that’s a nice tax exemption you traded your freedom of political speech for… Lets have a sit in and see if you’re staying in your lane.”

  3. Although it may not be applicable in this case, this article suggests that you cannot have a religious educational institution. Historically, this is laughably wrong, since ALL higher education for hundreds of years was religious and the students were legally considered clergy. Secular universities are a rather recent thing.

    Religious school often can get research grants (they are doing the contracted work), their students can receive student loans, and federal disaster relief funds are available without risking their status as religious institutions. As I recall, Yeshiva University has their colleges and classes segregated by sex, they are a religious school. I don’t know how they got taxpayer money for building projects. It looks like this was a political earmark from Chuck Schumer in the inflation reduction act, as might happen to any private university. That seems shady, especially since the justification was that the building renovated is used for many community events, but I don’t know that it voids the religious nature of the school.

  4. The education at Yeshiva may have a religious character, but there isn’t any doubt that they are primarily an educational institution. Conversely, although the bulk of their labor is focused on education, they clearly regard their school’s purpose as providing a place where their students’ education reflects their faith’s doctrines and ideals without compromise: That is central to the school’s existence. As such, they are “neither fish not fowl”: Aspects of their role as a religious organization and as an educational organization are both essential to their function.

  5. I’m curious as to why there is no mention of the ethics involving an LG… club choosing to fly in the face of the Jewish institution.

    Once again the alphabet mafia making it a point to stick it to the religious.

    99.9% of all public educational intuitions (and many private ones), accept them openly, so it’s not like they’re missing opportunities to have clubs everywhere.
    And never mind that there’s an entire month celebrating gay sex.
    Not only is the lifestyle openly accepted, they’re now putting sexually explicit materials for gay sex in elementary schools
    For CHILDREN to learn about (and that’s twisted and sick – kids have such a SMALL window to just be kids, don’t put the baggage of sexual activity on them). By all means, lets dilute and eradicate any vestige of religiosity anywhere in society.

    I think we’ve gone a bit too far here with sexualized society, and now gay sexualized society.

    Sex of any kind has never been free, in spite of modern cultures’ protestations to the contrary.

    Low birthrates, declining marriage rates, divorce booming in timing with the sexual revolution, the deleterious effects on children from broken families, etc, etc, etc.

    Those old fashioned morals were just so awful man, like, they really kept us from being the selfish assholes we’ve always aspired to be.

    It’s America, do what you want, and yes, Yeshiva should’ve accounted for the requirements that come with public funding, but does the alphabet mafia really need to stick it to the Jews? As widely accepted and celebrated as they are?

    How ethical is that?

    • LGBTQ students applied to and were accepted into Yeshiva. They want their own club—as a support group, whatever: why do schools have any clubs? The law makes theirs a protected class, meaning they can’t be discriminated against. under established eagle precedent, the school withholding the same kind of club for these students as any other student would be entitled to—there are Hispanic Student organizations and Black student organizations and feminist organizations—creates a stigma and second class status. There isn’t anything unethical about the effort to have what the law guarantees.

      • The question I’m asking is not of they can, or have the legal right to, the question is should they?

        Lets presume the kkk had similar discriminatory/ protected status.

        If I get accepted at and attend a HBCU, then I should form a chapter for the national kkk, yes?

        I’d be within my right to do it, but should I?

        • How is that any different from wanting to start a progressive politics club at Bob Jones, or a Young Republicans club at Yale? To reach the assumption that they can but shouldn’t one has to accept that there is something about the belief system or activities themselves are per se unethical because they harm—actually harm—the institution. In an educational institution, I’d say that’s impossible. In a religious institution, sure. But academic freedom applies if its a “college” and not a religious institution. Holding a school to the principles all schools should embrace can’t be unethical.

  6. A lesson in the dangers that come from lying with the lions and expecting them to act like lambs. Wherever govt money is there are myriads of stipulations. The power of the purse is the true power as always, ethics be damned!

    • As with Jack’s response, doesn’t answer the question I asked.

      Should an alphabet mafia group seek to form a club that undermines the tenets of Judaism?

      Show me that their charter or mission statement is to conform themselves in all ways to the teachings of the Torah, and I’ll agree it’s a fine idea (Presuming of course said statement is not just a marketing ploy and their behavior isn’t still willfully and frequently contra to the teachings of the Torah).

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