Yeshiva University approves new LGBT group amid religious freedom dispute

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Yeshiva University of New York will formulate a new LGBT student club on its campus while a lawsuit challenging the Orthodox Jewish school’s status as a “religious entity” unfolds in lower courts.

The new student group is called Kol Yisrael Areivim Club and has been endorsed by the university leadership as a way to support LGBT students within the framework of Torah. The new club was formed as an alternative to YU Pride Alliance, an unrecognized LGBT campus organization that argued in court that the private university is not a religious entity under state human rights laws and should therefore allow the club on campus.

Lower courts have so far agreed with challengers against the school’s religious status, although the Becket Religious Liberty Fund defending the school has argued that the formation of the Pride Alliance club presented a “unprecedented intrusion” in the sincere religious beliefs of the university.

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“The university has been in communication with its LGBTQ students for several months prior to the trial, seeking to find an appropriate forum for LGBTQ students where they can support each other, where they can share experiences, where they can enjoy hobbies together, where they can host events that support their mission,” Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a Monday press call.

The YU Pride Alliance said it would delay the university’s application for recognition after the institution canceled all student club activities and considered eliminating all student organizations following a 5-4. Supreme Court decision who refused to suspend a lower court ruling requiring the school to recognize the club.

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As the legal challenge continues, Yeshiva said it has maintained already existing on-campus support systems for LGBT students, including policies such as sensitivity training for faculty, anti-harassment initiatives and ongoing support groups for students who identify as part of the LGBT community.

The Washington Examiner contacted Pride Alliance for a response.

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