The Yeshiva University Lawsuit Hinges on Two Competing Visions of Education and Religion

Because Yeshiva University (YU) has not yet exhausted the appeals process of lower courts, the Supreme Court recently declined to hear its challenge to a ruling by a New York State judge that the school must grant official status to an undergraduate club for homosexual students. Judge Lynn Kotler had determined that YU violated New York City’s human-rights law in refusing to recognize the group and is not entitled to a religious exemption because its articles of incorporation state that it is an educational, rather than religious, organization. Tal Fortgang comments:

At one level, Kotler’s analysis seems plainly right and reflects some poor decision-making on YU’s part. If only a “religious corporation,” one “created for religious purposes” under New York law, is exempt from anti-discrimination efforts, it is easy to see why Kotler reached the conclusion she did. “Religious corporation” appears to be a legal term of art that means a church, and YU is clearly not a house of worship (though it does at times function as one). When YU’s lawyers asked Kotler to take a “functional” approach to determine the university’s religious character, she had some good reasons to decline.

But to step back from the legal arguments for a moment is to clarify the clash of views that has come to a head in this case. . . . Her mistake arises in her understandable accession to New York law’s false choice between religious activity and education.

We can trace the false choice back to a more fundamental question: what is education? . . . To those who see education as a service, like providing insurance or fixing a sink, religion has no reason to enter the picture because particular views of the transcendent and good have nothing to do with what a university provides, which is ostensibly training to participate in the modern economy. (Taking that view seriously would counsel a host of changes to our model of higher education—about which much can and ought to be said.) But Jewish or not, institutions of higher learning are always in the business of suggesting that some pursuits are good and some are bad as defined by an implicit or explicit code.

Similar fault lines would emerge between Judge Kotler (and the Pride Alliance) and YU if posed a related question: what is religion? . . . Judge Kotler’s mistake, and the mistake of the plaintiffs and those who wish for YU to cave or to lose in this litigation, is forcing the false choice between education and religion. Plaintiffs think they are acting in accordance with New York City human-rights law’s mandate to be sweeping and progressive in eradicating discrimination, but actually they are sending the message that religious education is an unwelcome form of moral formation.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: Education, Freedom of Religion, Homosexuality, Supreme Court, Yeshiva University

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security