LGBTQ advocates are gaining political support and legal guarantees at lightning speed. Only a decade ago, President Barack Obama still claimed to oppose same-sex marriage, a position that would be unthinkable for him today. He evolved.
But politics and religion are different. Politicians may be able to turn on a dime. Christian and Hebrew colleges and universities say, “not so fast.” Christianity is 2,000 years old and Jewish teachings are even older. LGBTQ advocates are boldly demanding that the tenets of these religions be changed immediately to accommodate gay rights and same-sex activities on campus.
On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily suspended a New York court order requiring Yeshiva University to recognize the YU Pride Alliance as an official college club with funding and listing in academic publications.
Yeshiva had refused to recognize the club because Yeshiva’s mission “is to instill Torah values in its students,” a university spokesperson said. The Yeshiva welcomes students of all faiths and gender identities, but it won’t put the university’s imprimatur on clubs or activities — such as gambling, video games, or gay sex — that violate the timeless values of the Torah.
Sotomayor’s order granted Yeshiva a temporary reprieve until the High Court takes further action. But Christian colleges and universities in the United States face similar legal challenges.
The American Civil Liberties Union sides with LGBTQ advocates, saying they fight intolerant people who use religion as an excuse to discriminate.
The ACLU is wrong. The battle is not over one right but over two: the right of LGBTQ people to be protected from prejudice and the long-standing right of all Americans to practice their religion – a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.
To protect the free exercise of religion, the federal Department of Education has routinely granted exemption to religious colleges and universities to practice their religious tenets, even when they conflict with title-protected LGBTQ rights. IX.
The exemption applies to about 120 of the approximately 5,300 higher education institutions in the United States, leaving LGBTQ rights protected on the vast majority of campuses and students free to choose these schools. Now the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, an advocacy group, is suing to overturn the exemption. The Biden administration has also launched civil rights investigations against several of these religious colleges.
One of the colleges targeted is Oral Roberts University, which requires students to pledge not to engage in “illicit and unscriptural sexual acts,” meaning any sex outside of the traditional wedding.
Some Christian schools are slowly changing their codes of conduct in response to the growing acceptance of gay rights, reports the American Bar Association. Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, urged members to reconcile “deeply held religious beliefs with equal treatment of people under the law”.
In 2019, Azusa Pacific University, an interdenominational school in California, held six months of on-campus meetings to find common ground and eventually lifted its ban on same-sex dating. It still prohibits any sexual relationship outside of traditional marriage. These are small but promising changes. In a pluralistic society where rights inevitably clash, one must give and take.
When Yeshiva won its temporary stay on Friday, Yeshiva’s Rabbi Ari Berman celebrated it as a victory for religious freedom, but added, “make no mistake, we will continue” to welcome LGBTQ students.
In New York, religious institutions are exempt from local laws prohibiting differential treatment based on gender or sexuality. But New York Judge Lynn R. Kotler ruled against Yeshiva because she erroneously concluded that Yeshiva was not a “religious institution.” This is clearly the case.
Other religious colleges and universities across the country are intervening, urging judges to take the Yeshiva case. The freedom to teach enduring religious beliefs is at stake.
Advocacy for LGBTQ rights is popular these days, while religious rights are seen as second-rate, especially by the left. The Court has noted this and seems determined to protect the free exercise of religion. The majority of the Court understands what politicians sometimes don’t. When it comes to rights, you can’t choose. In a free society, all rights must be protected, not just what is awakened.
Betsy McCaughey is a former Lieutenant Governor
of New York and chairman of the committee
to reduce deaths from infection.