YESHIVA UNIVERSITY NO LONGER HAS THE REQUISITE CONNECTION TO RELIGION AND THEREFORE IS NOT EXEMPT FROM THE DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITIONS IN THE NYC HUMAN RIGHTS LAW; THE PRIDE ALLIANCE WAS ENTITLED TO RECOGNITION AS AN OFFICIAL STUDENT ORGANIZATION (FIRST DEPT).
The First Department determined a student group (Pride Alliance) at Yeshiva University was entitled to summary judgment pursuant to the NYC Human Rights Law (City HRL)on its claims asserting gender, sexual orientation, and association discrimination. In addition Pride Alliance was entitled to a permanent injunction requiring Yeshiva to recognize the group as an official student organization. Essentially, Yeshiva argued the university was exempt from the requirements of the City HRL as a religious corporation or institution, but the university no longer had the requisite connection to religion: Yeshiva’s constitutional arguments (free exercise of religion, freedom of expression and association) were rejected:
Yeshiva was originally chartered in 1897 under the Membership Corporations Law as the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary Association (RIETS), with the stated purpose to “promote the study of Talmud” and prepare Orthodox Jewish rabbis for ministry. Over several decades, the charter was amended to allow numerous secular degrees to be awarded and to change the name of the institution, while RIETS remained part of Yeshiva. In 1967, Yeshiva amended its charter to become incorporated under the Education Law. Two years later it amended the charter to drop Hebrew Literature and Religious Education degrees, since RIETS was being spun off as its own corporation offering those degrees, and to “clarify the corporate status of the University as a non-denominational institution of higher learning.” While Yeshiva is now comprised of three undergraduate colleges and seven graduate schools, RIETS remains a separate corporate entity housed on one of Yeshiva’s campuses. YU Pride Alliance v Yeshiva Univ., 2022 NY Slip Op 07175, First Dept 12-13-22
Practice Point: Yeshiva University was not entitled to exemption from the discrimination prohibitions in the NYC Human Rights Law because the university no longer has the requisite connection to religion. Therefore the “Pride Alliance” was entitled to recognition as an official student group.