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

Sept. 23 2022

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.

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Read more at Law and Liberty

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

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam