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The Supreme Court has denied a petition from Yeshiva University to block an order from a lower court that said the school had to recognize a “Pride Alliance” student club, but that is not the end.
Conservative Justices John Roberts, the chief Justice, and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the liberals in the 5 – 4 decision, CNN reported.
But the Justices said that the University could bring the case back to the Supreme Court after other avenues had been attempted.
“The application is denied because it appears that applicants have at least two further avenues for expedited or interim state court relief,” the order said.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barret dissented, arguing that it “could take months,” for the lower courts to rule on the case.
“I see no reason why we should not grant a stay at this time,” Justice Alito said, recognizing that the school is based in the Jewish faith and the club is inconsistent with its teachings.
“The First Amendment guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion, and if that provision means anything, it prohibits a State from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of the Holy Scripture,” the Justice said.
“The upshot is that Yeshiva is almost certain to be compelled for at least some period of time (and perhaps for a lengthy spell) to instruct its students in accordance with what it regards as an incorrect interpretation of Torah and Jewish law,” he argued.
He said that the state imposing its “own mandatory interpretation of scripture is a shocking development that calls out for review,” and “it is our duty to stand up for the Constitution even when doing so is controversial.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor — who has jurisdiction over the lower court — had temporarily blocked the order last week, a move meant to give the full court more time to act.
The court’s order is a rare loss, for now, for supporters of religious liberty at the Supreme Court.
Last term, the court’s conservative majority ruled in favor of religious conservatives in two cases. In addition, in 2021, the court sided with a Catholic foster care agency that refused to consider same-sex couples as potential foster parents.
Last week liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor ordered that ruling be temporarily blocked to allow the institution’s religious freedom case to wrap up.
Sotomayor signed off on the ruling because she is the circuit justice overseeing the Second District, which includes the state of New York. The Daily Wire reported that there were no dissents.
“Yeshiva shouldn’t have been forced to go all the way to the Supreme Court to receive such a commonsense ruling in favor of its First Amendment rights,” Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel of the Becket law firm, noted in a statement to The Daily Wire after Sotomayor’s ruling.
#BREAKING: Justice Sotomayor has just stayed a New York court ruling, protecting Yeshiva University from having to imminently violate the Torah values that form its religious identity. https://t.co/TTN9t1xNOt
— BECKET (@BECKETlaw) September 9, 2022
“We are grateful that Justice Sotomayor stepped in to protect Yeshiva’s religious liberty in this case,” he noted further.
Becket bills itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan, law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions.”
The Daily Wire adds:
Yeshiva University has been fighting to defend its religious identity in New York courts for more than a year. In YU Pride Alliance v. Yeshiva University, New York lower courts agreed with the plaintiffs to force Yeshiva to recognize an LGBTQ club on campus, even though this would violate Torah values that Yeshiva follows.
The emergency order from Sotomayor will allow the school to deny recognition to the group for now, though it may not be the court’s final decision on the matter.
“As a deeply religious Jewish university, Yeshiva cannot comply with that [state court] order because doing so would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to form its undergraduate students in Torah values,” the university argued in an emergency appeal before the Supreme Court.
The university first opened its doors in 1886 and is currently one of the oldest Orthodox Jewish universities in the U.S. The institution filed its emergency appeal Aug. 29 as a means of pushing back on the “unprecedented intrusion” of the school’s religious beliefs, The Daily Wire noted.
A previous ruling by New York Supreme Court Justice Lynn Kotler ordered Yeshiva University to recognize the LGBTQ group.
“Even if the court were to adopt Yeshiva’s religious function test, the court would reach the same result,” Kotler’s ruling said.
“Plaintiffs’ counsel correctly characterizes defendants’ argument on this point: defendants want this court to find that Yeshiva is a religious corporation in the same manner an ordinary person would describe themselves as a religious person,” the ruling added.
“There is no doubt that Yeshiva has an inherent and integral religious character which defines it and sets it apart from other schools and universities of higher education. However, Yeshiva must fit within the term ‘religious corporation’ as the legislature intended the term to mean in the [New York City Human Rights Law],” it said.