Sotomayor Issues Emergency Stay In Yeshiva’s Religious Liberty Suit

In June, Albany Update noted that Yeshiva University in New York City had lost the first round of a court battle to preserve its Jewish identity in the face of LGBT student demands.

Now, the University is seeking to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

On August 29, Yeshiva University made an emergency request that the Supreme Court block a state trial court’s order directing the University to provide official recognition to an LGBT student organization. The University had denied recognition to the applicants due to the University’s religious tenets. The students seeking official recognition have claimed that the University violated a New York City ordinance banning discrimination in places of public accommodation.  The University takes the position that it is a religious organization and is therefore exempt from the ordinance; however, the trial court ruled that the University is an educational corporation, not a religious corporation. According to TheHill.com, after losing at the trial court level, the University appealed the trial court’s decision and lost once again.

Yeshiva University is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund commented: “‘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.’”

In response to Yeshiva’s request, on September 8, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted an emergency stay in this matter. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms thanks Justice Sotomayor for this stay and hopes that ultimately the full Supreme Court will take this case and find in favor of Yeshiva University. The First Amendment guarantees the University the freedom of association. That freedom allows the University to decline to recognize a student group whose activities would violate its sincerely-held religious tenets.

UPDATE (09/15/2022): SCOTUSblog reports, “Five days after Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily put on hold a New York state court ruling that directed Yeshiva University to approve an official “Pride Alliance” student club, the full Supreme Court reinstated the state-court ruling for now and directed the university to go back to the state courts to try to obtain relief.”

“Although they did not publicly record their votes, the four-justice dissent means that the two remaining conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, must have joined their three liberal colleagues – Sotomayor and Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson – in voting to deny the university’s request. The order denying the request indicated that the majority saw procedural problems with intervening in the dispute at its current stage.”