As Pride Club Attacks Yeshiva University, LGBTQ Students From Other Religious Colleges Take Notice
Yeshiva University’s decision to suspend all student activities rather than recognizing a campus Pride group surprised a lot in the Jewish world. In Provo, Utah, the move seemed familiar.
Brigham Young Universitywhich follows the religious law of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has strict rules against same-sex relationships and has gone to great lengths to enforce them.
“I’m like, ‘This is literally BYU,'” Brigham Young University senior David Shill said in an interview. “It’s the exact same antics and stunts that BYU would do.”
Shill runs the Cougar Pride Center, an organization that supports the school’s LGBTQ students. Like the YU Pride Alliance, whose efforts to gain YU recognition are still play in court, the Cougar Pride Center is not officially recognized by the university, which means it will not receive funding and will not be able to meet on campus. Another BYU pride group sees its candidacy rejected every year; Shill doesn’t bother to try.
If anyone can identify with the fight for LGBTQ equality at the Orthodox Jewish university, it’s people like Shill: gay students fighting similar battles at other religious universities. They, too, portray old-guard administrators who can prevail in court, but who nonetheless appear to be on the defensive as gay people demand equal treatment. And as YU’s case grows in the national spotlight, they feel personally and legally invested in the outcome.
Not content to simply follow the matter from afar, Shill also reached out to the Pride Alliance to offer moral support.
“It’s hard for people who haven’t been there to really understand how overwhelming homophobic action can be from a university and how clearly it puts you in that box,” Shill said. “They remind you that you are a minority, that your identity is against God. I think for people who haven’t been there, it’s really hard – you feel so small.
Gay students at Yeshiva University aren’t the only ones fighting back. Students and graduates of dozens of religious universities are suing the Department of Education for violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. In a separate lawsuit, Seattle Pacific University students and faculty are suing the school’s board of trustees over an internal revolt that began when an adjunct professor was fired. refused a permanent position allegedly because he was gay.
Not that gay students at two religious universities are necessarily treated the same. Brigham Young’s regime is tougher than Yeshiva’s: Same-sex couples cannot hold hands on the BYU campus for fear of deportation.
On the other hand, Chloe Guillot, a Seattle Pacific graduate student who is among the plaintiffs in her lawsuit against the board, said she appreciates its relative privilege compared to other religious schools. Seattle Pacific, which is associated with the Evangelical Free Methodist Church, recognized its Student Pride organization more than a decade ago and has no rules restricting students’ gender or sexual expression.
Reading the details of the YU case, Guillot said, “was kind of like a gut check of ‘Man, we’ve come this far at SPU, and I hope other colleges can go this far too. . “”
Like Shill, however, she acknowledged the challenge of Yeshiva University administrators who opposed full LGBTQ acceptance, calling the ban on student activities a “political stunt.” In Seattle Pacific, mass resignations from the board followed widespread protests against the school’s hiring policy.
The remaining directors dug in their heels. After the Washington State Attorney General announced an investigation into the school, Seattle Pacific sued the state in an attempt to block it – by retaining Becket Law, the same firm representing Yeshiva University against the Pride Alliance.
Paul Southwick, whose firm, the Religious Exemption Accountability Projectrepresents the plaintiffs against Seattle Pacific, said the lawsuits reveal a generational divide in American organized religion that comes to a head in universities.
“The students who are rising up are not strangers,” Southwick said. “They are not a bunch of secular atheists. They are very dedicated to their faith.
Southwick also filed the suit by 40 religious university students and alumni against the Ministry of Education.
In this case, plaintiffs claim that allowing schools with religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ students violates Title IX. (YU did not claim a religious exemption under Title IX.)
A New York District Court judge ruled in June that YU’s refusal to recognize the Pride Alliance violated the city’s human rights law. school maintains that forcing him to recognize the group violates his religious freedom. His petition to Supreme Court for a stay of order of the judge was refuse by a vote of 5 to 4, but the Court can still proceed with the case.
A favorable Supreme Court ruling for YU Pride Alliance on First Amendment issues would help the plaintiffs, who are awaiting a decision from a federal judge in Oregon. On the other hand, a decision in favor of YU could undermine their efforts.
Regardless of the outcome, Southwick said the cases themselves – whether from YU Pride Alliance or its customers – played a role in consumer protection for prospective students.
“At least now parents and students can know what these schools are doing to their children,” he said, “and they can make a more informed decision about whether it’s a safe place or not. to send their children.