(CNS News) -- Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a liberal, issued an "emergency stay" to Yeshiva University on Sept. 9, allowing it to stop the creation of an official "Pride Alliance" student club at the 135-year-old Jewish institution of higher education.
New York County Supreme Court Judge Lynn Kotler had ruled in June that Yeshiva University must allow YU Pride Alliance, otherwise the school would be in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination by public entities.
In its request to the U.S. Supreme Court, the university said, "As a deeply religious Jewish university, Yeshiva cannot comply with that order because doing so would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to form its undergraduate students in Torah values." Yeshiva contends that a pro-LGBT student club violates its religious liberty under the First Amendment.
"To avoid the irreparable harm that would come to Yeshiva, its students, and its community from the government-enforced establishment of a Yeshiva Pride Alliance club, Applicants respectfully request an immediate stay pending appeal," said the university.
"This extraordinary situation arises from what all parties—and the trial court— acknowledge was a religious decision not to approve a Yeshiva Pride Alliance club," they said. "All parties agree that Yeshiva made this decision in consultation with its Roshei Yeshiva, or senior rabbis. And all parties agree that Yeshiva has a deeply religious character as a Jewish university."
At the school, students study the Talmud, a series of laws for Jewish living, up to four hours a day. The students dress and behave in accordance with Torah values, and "the entire undergraduate experience is designed to form students in the Jewish faith," said the university in its request to the court.
On Facebook, YU Pride Alliance describes itself as follows, "We are an unofficial group of undergraduate YU students providing a supportive space for all students, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, to feel respected, visible, and represented."
In a response to the request for an emergency stay, lawyers for YU Pride Alliance told Sotomayor, "YU is incorporated as an educational corporation under the New York Education Law, is organized 'exclusively for educational purposes,' and has no religious rules of governance or stated religious affiliation in its corporate charter."
"YU’s Bylaws also state no religious rules of governance and do not reference any religious affiliation," reads the response. "People of all religious faiths are equally entitled to hold offices and appointments at YU. YU does not require its Trustees, President, administrators, faculty, or students to be Jewish."
The lawyers argue that because Yeshiva University provides "public accommodation" under the law, it cannot discriminate against a student group comprised of LGBT people and their supporters. Such discrimination apparently would violate the New York City Human Rights Law.
"The University has denied the club the ability to hold meetings on campus, access funding available to other student groups, publicize its events on school listservs and bulletin boards, and participate in student club fairs," said the attorneys for YU Pride Alliance.
By granting the emergency stay to Yeshiva University, Justice Sotomayor is giving the school time to pursue an appeal of Judge Kotler's ruling in a lower court. Sotomayor is the Supreme Court justice assigned to handle such legal requests for New York.
In a statement, Yeshiva University President Ari Berman said, “The Torah guides everything that we do at Yeshiva—from how we educate students to how we run our dining halls to how we organize our campus. We care deeply for and welcome all our students, including our LGBTQ students, and continue to be engaged in a productive dialogue with our Rabbis, faculty, and students on how we apply our Torah values to create an inclusive campus environment. We only ask the government to allow us the freedom to apply the Torah in accordance with our values.”