Why the Case of the Yeshiva University Pride Alliance Matters for Religious Freedom in America

Sept. 2 2022

After some deliberation, New York City’s Yeshiva University (YU) declined an application for official status from an undergraduate gay and lesbian group, the Pride Alliance. But Lynn Kotler, a New York state judge, recently ruled that the school must reverse course, on the grounds that it is not entitled to a religious exemption from the New York City Human Rights Law. YU has now petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Dan McLaughlin analyzes the constitutional issues at hand:

Judge Kotler ruled that Yeshiva is not really a religious, rather than an educational, institution. She relied on the fact that the university had changed its charter in 1967 to declare an educational primary purpose and that it now offers degrees in many secular subjects. She also decided that the university’s religious argument was compromised because some faculty dissented from the decision and because the university since the 1990s had permitted such groups in its schools of law and medicine. . . .

This is, on both grounds, an unreasonably crabbed view of what it means to be a religious believer or a religious institution. While Yeshiva trains rabbis, it also trains a great many other students who will have to earn their living in the wider world—as businesspeople, doctors, dentists, lawyers, scientists, social workers, teachers, and all manner of other occupations. No religion can long survive if it is permitted to train only ministers in the faith. The university’s greater willingness to compromise the purity of its religious message in its law and medical schools is, likewise, a real-world acknowledgement that graduate and professional schools aren’t colleges: they cater to students who have reached full adulthood and may, in many cases, be married people in their 30s with significant work experience who have likely already set themselves on their faith journey.

As for the fact that some faculty disagreed with the decision, one must ask if the judge has ever met any university faculty, any religious believers, or any Jews. If religious authorities may require their believers to follow only those doctrines that nobody disputes, that would swiftly be the end of all forms of religious authority.

Read more at National Review

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

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship