Lawyers for America’s oldest Jewish university on Monday asked the Supreme Court to intervene in a case pitting its understanding of the Hebrew scriptures against a state court order compelling the school to grant official recognition of a campus gay pride group.
Yeshiva University, whose principal campus is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, has asked the high court to stay the lower court orders that favored the YU Pride Alliance, a gay student group in their quest for official status at the 134-year-old school.
“The Torah guides everything that we do at Yeshiva — from how we educate students to how we run our dining halls to how we organize our campus,” Rabbi Ari Berman, Yeshiva University’s president, said in a statement. “We care deeply for and welcome all our students, including our LGBTQ students, and continue to be engaged in a productive dialogue with our Rabbis, faculty and students on how we apply our Torah values to create an inclusive campus environment. We only ask the government to allow us the freedom to apply the Torah in accordance with our values.”
The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which correspond to the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, namely the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
The school said it provides support services for LGBTQ students and has prohibited bullying and discrimination against its gay students. But officials say they draw the line at the YU Pride Alliance‘s insistence that Yeshiva University is not a religious institution.
According to an appeal filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a District-based public interest law firm, Yeshiva “offers too many secular degrees to qualify for the law’s express exemptions for religious organizations.”
The appeal stated the lower court had determined the school had “no right to control how its religious beliefs and values are interpreted or applied on its campuses,” despite a school requirement that all undergraduates “are required to engage in intense religious studies, with many receiving up to four and a half hours of Talmud instruction each day.”
According to Becket vice president and senior counsel Eric Baxter: “When secular authorities try to tell Yeshiva University that it is not religious, you know something has gone terribly wrong. The First Amendment protects Yeshiva’s right to practice its faith. We are asking the Supreme Court to correct this obvious error.”
The Washington Times has contacted the YU Pride Alliance for comment.
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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