Religious Values in Secular Institutions? Yeshiva University and the Future of Religiously Affiliated (But Secularly Chartered) Higher Education in America
27 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2022 Last revised: 26 Sep 2022
Date Written: July 7, 2022
Universities that are incorporated under a secular charter face a number of challenges in claiming religious exemptions or religious character. These secularly chartered but religiously motivated universities (SCbRMU) often are attempting to get the best of both world, by maintaining entitlement to government funding that is exclusive to secular entities while also claiming religious protections. In this paper, Yeshiva University (YU) is used as a case study of the difficulties faced by these institutions. YU has been sued by a group of students and alumni for refusing to authorize an official LGBT club, and YU has argued that it is entitled to a religious exemption from New York City anti-discrimination laws. This paper discusses the history of YU and its relationship with LGBT rights, as well as relevant case law concerning religious education, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and religious exemptions. The paper concludes with a discussion of the legal options a SCbRMU has when faced with these issues, including shedding part of its identity (either the religious or the secular), maintaining the status quo, and defiance. Ultimately, none of the options are ideal for such an institution, and the nature of the conflict for YU, when discrimination against funding religious institutions leads to the financial need for a secular charter, and the school’s secular status then leads to difficulty receiving a religious exemption from anti-discrimination laws, show that society is not tolerant of ambiguity in this scenario, and institutions are better served if they avoid these contradictions.
Keywords: religious educational institutions, anti-discrimination, sexual orientation, religious freedom, conflicts of rights.
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