Yeshiva University will temporarily shut down all of its undergraduate clubs in the college’s latest attempt to avoid recognizing an LGBTQ campus group after a legal bid was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a late Friday email to students, the university said it would “hold off on all undergraduate club activities while it immediately takes steps to follow the roadmap provided by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect YU’s religious freedom.”
The move came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the school to comply with a lower court order to recognize the LGBTQ group, at least while it exhausts its appeal on the state level.
The Orthodox Jewish university, which has several campuses in New York City, has waged a years-long battle against a peer support group for LGBTQ students, arguing that recognizing the club violates the university’s religious freedom. Meanwhile, members of the group, YU Pride Alliance, said the university is breaking the city’s human rights law by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In a statement shared with Gothamist, Katherine Rosenfeld, an attorney for the student group, accused the college of adopting tactics of racist institutions that refused segregation orders.
The decision, Rosenfeld said, “is a throwback to 50 years ago when the city of Jackson, Miss. closed all public swimming pools rather than comply with court orders to desegregate.”
“By shutting down all club activities, the YU administration attempts to divide the student body, and pit students against their LGBT peers,” she continued. “We are confident that YU students will see through this shameful tactic and stand together in community.”
Inquiries to the university seeking further clarification about the policy were not returned.
The battle has emerged as a major test of religious freedom under the conservative Supreme Court, and is being closely watched by conservative groups.
After a state judge sided with the students in June, the university asked the Supreme Court to intervene.
While the court denied the university’s request for emergency relief, the decision is widely seen as procedural. The majority – which included conservative justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts – noted the court would likely hear the case if its state appeals effort is denied.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito – who was joined by Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett – wrote that New York’s “mandatory interpretation of scripture is a shocking development that calls out for review.”
If the university exhausts its appeals on the state level, he predicted, “Yeshiva would likely win if its case came before us.”