WASHINGTON (BP)—The U.S. Supreme Court has denied, at least for now, a request by the nation’s oldest Jewish university for judges to block enforcement of a judicial requirement that it must grant recognition to a group of gay and transgender students.

In a 5-4 order Wednesday, September 14, the High Court denied Yeshiva University’s emergency request for a stay as it appeals a New York court’s ruling that the school must officially recognize YU Pride Alliance. The judges said the denial was based on the university not seeking a warrant waiver that may be available in state court. If Yeshiva receives “neither expedited review nor interim relief” from the New York courts, it can return to the Supreme Court, according to the order.

In their order, the judges reversed Associate Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Sept. 9 stay of the lower court’s order against Yeshiva.

Becket, a religious freedom organization that represents Yeshiva in the case, said it would comply with the order. “We will follow the directions of the court,” Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel for Becket, said in a written statement.

The five-member majority of the High Court order was made up of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Associate Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissent joined by Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

Brent Leatherwood, chairman of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told The Baptist Press, “While I understand the procedural nature of the court’s justification, it is unacceptable that this institution can be forced to violate its beliefs. deeply rooted in gender. and sexuality.

“New York State courts should act quickly to ensure Yeshiva’s religious freedom is protected because, as Judge Alito wrote in the dissent, considered on the merits, this is not a close appeal and Yeshiva should prevail,” he said in written comments. .

The ERLC joined nine other religious organizations in a September 2 friendly-of-court brief asking the Supreme Court to block the state court’s order and protect Yeshiva’s right to act on its own. beliefs.

In its order, the Supreme Court said Yeshiva had at least two other avenues it could pursue in New York courts to seek a stay of the court order requiring YU Pride Alliance recognition. The school can ask state courts “to expedite the review of the merits of their appeals,” the judges said. He can also file a motion with the Appeals Division for leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals the denial of a stay in the lower court and request an expedited review of the motion, according to the arrangement.

The New York County Supreme Court issued a permanent injunction on June 14 against Yeshiva and ordered the school to grant all privileges to YU Pride Alliance that it offers to other student organizations. The court ruled that Yeshiva was not a religious society under state law. On August 23, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, denied Yeshiva’s request to block enforcement of the lower court’s order.

In his dissent, Alito wrote, “The First Amendment guarantees the right to free exercise of religion, and if that provision makes any sense, it prohibits a state from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of Holy Scripture. Yet that is exactly what New York did in this case, and it is disappointing that a majority of this Court refuses to grant relief.

“The loss of First Amendment rights, even for a short time, constitutes irreparable harm…and the appeals process in state courts could easily drag on for months.”

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion by government and guarantees the free exercise of religion.

Yeshiva University, a 136-year-old school with more than 7,400 undergraduate and graduate students on four campuses, says education at the school is based on five Torah values ​​– truth, life , infinite human worth, compassion and redemption. The Torah refers to Jewish teaching, specifically that of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.

Yeshiva says it welcomes, supports, and seeks to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students, but it declined to give official recognition to the YU Pride Alliance in 2020. A coalition of alumni pupils and students sued the school.

Organizations that signed a brief with the ERLC were Houston Baptist University, Cedarville University, Liberty University, Biola University, Wheaton College, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archdiocese of New York, Church of Jesus -Christ of the Latter Day Saints. and Brigham Young University. Other Christian associations, as well as various Jewish organizations, have also filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to order a stay.

According to their brief, the ERLC and the other organizations differ in several ways but are united in this instance “because their ability to serve and structure their ministries as their beliefs dictate depends on First Amendment protections.” The lower court’s decision and the appeals court’s refusal to stay the decision pose “a grave and urgent threat to religious freedom that warrants immediate (Supreme Court) action,” they said in the brief.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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