The Constitutional Grounds for Yeshiva University’s Quarrel with New York City

Claiming that its decision not to grant official status to an undergraduate gay and lesbian group does not violate New York City’s antidiscrimination laws, Yeshiva University (YU) has argued that it is exempted by specific clauses in these laws granting exceptions for religious institutions. A state judge, however, recently ruled that YU is not an organization with “a religious purpose,” and therefore these exemptions don’t apply. In response, the school has petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene. Michael A. Helfand explains the “bold” legal argument YU is making:

[T]he First Amendment provides religious institutions the right to engage in internal religious decision-making free from governmental interference. Often referred to as the “church autonomy doctrine,” this constitutional principle is well established in numerous legal contexts. For example, it has provided the constitutional basis for why, at times, courts are instructed to stay out of property disputes between warring factions within a church.

This doctrine is also the basis for why houses of worship have the right to hire and fire ministers free from government regulation—why, for example, Orthodox synagogues are constitutionally permitted to reject all female applicants for a rabbinic position even though doing so in any other context would be prohibited sex discrimination. In 2020, the Supreme Court described this principle as providing religious institutions a constitutional guarantee of “independence in matters of faith and doctrine and in closely linked matters of internal government.”

The boundaries of the doctrine, however, are unsettled. What kinds of religious institutions qualify for this sort of protection? And what decisions are the sort of internal religious decision-making beyond the jurisdiction of courts?

Some scholars and judges have suggested that the doctrine should only apply to cases in which solving the underlying dispute would require a court to pick a side in theological questions, but does not apply when a court is simply asked to apply a law prohibiting certain forms of discrimination.

Read more at Forward

More about: Freedom of Religion, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution, Yeshiva University

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7