New York state lawmakers on Wednesday wrote a letter to Yeshiva University demanding an accounting of their use of public dollars, following the university’s refusal to recognize an LGBTQ group.
In a letter to Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, the lawmakers wrote, “As members of the New York State Senate, we are concerned about the discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ students by Yeshiva University (YU) while receiving funds from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) and other state funds. YU’s discriminatory behavior is wholly inconsistent with the purposes for which state funding is provided, namely, to promote the fullest possible participation by all students in the state’s educational opportunities.”
The lawmakers dispute Yeshiva University’s claim that it is not required to recognize the YU Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student club, because it is a “religious corporation” under New York law.
“This assertion conflicts with other representations by YU to the State of New York that it is an ‘independent, coeducational, nonsectarian, non-for-profit institution of higher education’ for purposes of obtaining certain bond offerings. On December 15, 2022, the First Department Appellate Division affirmed that YU is violating the law by refusing equal treatment to LGBTQ students, and specifically cited YU’s ‘proffered statements to public authorities’ as evidence of its legal status as a covered public accommodation. Given these potential misrepresentations, we request that YU provide an immediate accounting of its use of DASNY funds,” they wrote.
The letter requests “a full and complete accounting from YU of its use of the DASNY funds” within 30 days.
“Yeshiva University’s discriminatory behavior and claimed status appear to be at odds with the statements the university made to obtain state funds. If so, the university is not using those funds for approved state purposes. We will not abide the use of state funds to support discriminatory behavior that excludes LGBTQ students from their right to an equal education. We urge Yeshiva University to immediately reverse course and cease its anti-LGBT policies,” the letter concludes.
The letter was signed by Senators Brad Hoylman, the chair of the senate judiciary committee; Liz Krueger, the chair of the senate finance committee; and Toby Ann Stavisky, the chair of the senate’s higher education committee.
Hanan Eisenman, a university spokesman, said in a statement quoted by The New York Times that “the Supreme Court has three times ruled that the government may not restrict funding to religious schools because of their free exercise” of religion.
“Yeshiva will continue to defend the right of its students to be treated by the state on equal footing with students at every other university,” added Eisenman. “They choose for themselves how best to live those values, but the First Amendment guarantees Yeshiva the right to maintain a campus environment consistent with its religious beliefs.”
The letter comes amid a continued legal battle by the YU Pride Alliance to be recognized by Yeshiva University.
In June, the New York County Supreme Court ruled that Yeshiva University must recognize YU Pride Alliance.
In September, the Supreme Court ruled that Yeshiva University is required for the time being to officially recognize YU Pride Alliance.
The sides then agreed to delay the club’s recognition while the school filed another appeal.
In October, Yeshiva University announced the creation of a new LGBTQ student group, the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club, which would provide a space for LGBTQ students at the Jewish university to support one another “within the Torah framework”.
In December, a New York appeals court ruled that Yeshiva University must formally recognize the group.
The court upheld a judge's ruling that the school did not qualify as a "religious corporation," which would exempt it from prohibitions against discrimination by a place or provider of public accommodation under the New York City Human Rights Law.