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Yeshiva University suspends all student clubs after SCOTUS denies its request to block LGBTQ group

In an email to students, the Orthodox school says it is now taking steps to follow ‘the roadmap provided by the US Supreme Court to protect YU’s religious freedom’

Yeshiva University announced Friday it was suspending all student clubs, the latest escalation in the Orthodox Jewish school’s attempt to avoid recognizing an LGBTQ campus group.

Yeshiva University President Ari Berman
YU President Ari Berman. Courtesy of Yeshiva University

An unsigned message emailed to the YU undergraduate listserv said, “Considering the upcoming Chagim” — referring to the Jewish High Holidays — “the university will hold off on all undergraduate club activities while it immediately takes steps to follow the roadmap provided by the US Supreme Court to protect YU’s religious freedom.”

It did not state how long the suspension would last, though the holiday period generally referred to as the chagim does not end this year until the middle of October.

Yeshiva University President Rabbi Ari Berman declined to comment Friday afternoon.

The announcement follows several failed attempts to block the campus group — most lately at the Supreme Court —  after a New York trial court judge ordered the school in June to grant the club, the Y.U. Pride Alliance, equal access to facilities and funding.

Yeshiva University maintains that recognizing an LGBTQ group would compromise its commitment to halacha, or Jewish law, and that forcing it to recognize the group would infringe on its First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to deny the school’s emergency petition for a stay on the order Wednesday, writing that YU had not exhausted all other avenues of appeal. The dissenting opinion held that the court would likely accept the case down the road and rule in favor of the school. A number of Christian groups took interest in the case, supporting Yeshiva.

In an FAQ about the Supreme Court case and in a statement following the ruling, Berman has said that the school welcomes LGBTQ students and staff. 

Current and former LGBTQ students have repeatedly questioned that assertion.

The YU Pride Alliance responded to Yeshiva’s decision in a statement Friday afternoon, comparing the school’s decision to when the city of Jackson, Mississippi, closed all public swimming pools rather than comply with court orders to desegregate them.

“The Pride Alliance seeks a safe space on campus, nothing more,” Tai Miller, who is among the YU Pride Alliance plaintiffs, wrote on Twitter. “By shutting down all club activities, the YU administration attempts to divide the student body, and pit students against their LGBT peers. We are confident that YU students will see through this shameful tactic and stand together in community.”

The YU Commentator, the student newspaper of the YU boys’ campus, reported Friday that anonymous administration sources said university officials were considering dissolving all clubs and student organizations to avoid recognizing the Pride Alliance as an official campus club.

The Commentator quoted several student council members condemning the decision, including Meital Lindenberg, student council president at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for women.

“Clubs are an essential aspect of the YU experience and putting them on hold interferes with all of the positive opportunities and experiences that students gain from clubs,” Lindenberg told the Commentator.

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