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US Supreme Court does about-face in religion case

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The US Supreme Court turned sharply to the right under the presidency of Donald Trump./AFP
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Sep 15, 2022 - 10:31 AM

WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court did an about-face Wednesday on a ruling in which it had granted temporary permission for an Orthodox Jewish university in New York to deny official recognition to an LGBTQ student group.

Yeshiva University had turned to the court for an urgent ruling after a New York state judge said the school had to let the so-called Pride Alliance register as a student association, which would give it access to certain facilities and services.

On Friday, the Supreme Court sided with the university. But now it has vacated that ruling, saying the university has not exhausted all of its legal options at the New York state level.

If the university does not succeed in those proceedings, the court said, it “may return to this court.” The comment suggests the tug of war is not over.

Four of the court’s nine judges dissented.

“The First Amendment guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion, and if that provision means anything, it prohibits a State from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of Holy Scripture,” these judges argued.

“It is our duty to stand up for the Constitution even when doing so is controversial,” they said.

Yeshiva University was founded more than 100 years ago to promote the study of Judaism and has a student body of about 5,000. But it also gives degrees in a variety of non-religious areas such as biology or accounting.

In 2018, a group of LGBTQ students formed YU Pride Alliance and sought formal recognition as a student association so they could organize lectures and hold meetings, among other activities.

When the university administration said no, the association sued, and a New York state judge sided with it, citing a law banning discrimination.

The university then went to the Supreme Court.

“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,” the university stated in its appeal.

This clash is part of a broader debate in the United States on striking a balance between religious rights and the principles of non-discrimination.

The Supreme Court, which turned sharply to the right under the presidency of Donald Trump, has in recent months issued several rulings in favor of religious rights.

In June, it struck down the 50-year old national right to abortion.

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