Three state legislators want to know if Yeshiva University lied about being a secular university to receive more than $230 million in taxpayer money.
To prevent an LGBT student group from receiving formal campus accreditation, the university’s newest move is a letter seeking complete accounting from the Modern Orthodox headquarters.
Y.U. defied court orders to join the club by doing so. Although described in its charter as a secular institution, it has insisted that it has a distinctly religious character and is therefore exempt from state civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people.
The letter from the politicians, which is signed by State Sens. Brad Hoylman, leader of the judiciary committee, Liz Krueger, chair of the finance committee, and Toby Ann Stavisky, chair of the committee on higher education, requests that Y.U. account for funds obtained by the institution through a public financing and construction agency in 2009 and 2001 for campus renovations.
According to the letter, the institution agreed that the money would not be used to build places of “sectarian religious education or religious worship.”
The signers also aimed at Y.U.’s opposition to recognizing the LGBT club. “Y.U.’s discriminatory behavior is inconsistent with the reasons for which state financing is granted, namely, to promote the maximum possible participation by all students in the state’s educational opportunities.
The letter puts the university in a difficult position because it depends on having access to public funds while also fighting a State Supreme Court ruling from last year that required it to recognize Youngstown University by arguing that it should be recognized as a religious institution instead.
Administrators are anticipating that there will be some relief in the U.S. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has expressed support for institutions’ assertions that it is discriminatory to refuse them public funding because of their religious views.
The supreme court denied an earlier plea from Y.U.. to hear its case, but indicated the school could approach it once more following a state-level appeal of the court’s ruling.
The Supreme Court has three times ruled that the government may not restrict funding to religious schools due to their free exercise of religion, according to university spokesman Hanan Eisenman, who added that “the First Amendment guarantees Yeshiva the right to maintain a campus environment consistent with its religious beliefs.”