To: ALL CONCERNED WITH GAY CLUBS AT YESHIVA UNIVERSITY,
EINSTEIN COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, AND THE BENJAMIN CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL.
There follows a response to each of the 14 arguments used by Rabbi Norman
president of the three institutions:
1. President Lamm admits there are "a handful" of gay students in the
clubs "to discuss issues of concern to the gay community".
Would Yeshiva University allow "a handful" of
students to set up clubs for sexual swingers, prostitution, drug users, or adulterers, in
order to allow those interested in such activities "to discuss issues of
concern" to their respective "communities"?
Such clubs do more than merely "discuss issues".
Members of the gay clubs support and encourage homosexual "issues of
concern". They actively seek the legalization of same-sex marriage and
the right to teach schoolchildren that homosexuality is normal, healthy, and an
alternative to heterosexuality. These "concerns" are demands set
forth in the "Platform of the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual
Equal Rights and Liberation".
At no place in his 14 arguments does President Norman Lamm note
that gays are radical homosexuals who flaunt their sexual behavior and take
"pride" in it. Most homosexuals prefer to keep their sexual behavior
private; not so with those who identify themselves as gays, as do the gays at Yeshiva,
Einstein, and Cardozo.
2. President Lamm states, "The student bodies...are...diverse ethnically,
religiously, and racially...." He is confusing diversity with perversity.
He would equate homosexuals with blacks and Hispanics. But
homosexuals are not a minority based on ethnicity, religion, or race. They are
set apart by their sexual behavior.
President Lamm claims that gays do not proselytize (his
emphasis). The fact is that their meeting are openly posted on university
bulletin boards and invite all to attend in the hope that some students will actually join
them, while others, desensitized thereby to traditional Jewish attitudes, will begin
seeing homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
President Lamm admits that "These gay groups have existed for years but went
largely unnoticed prior to the recent spate of distorted media reports."
Yes, the gay clubs at Yeshiva, Einstein, and Cardozo were one
of the best kept secrets in academia. It is the accuracy of the media reports
that disconcerts President Lamm. The Jewish Herald columnist who
reported on the gay clubs at Yeshiva University on January 10, 1987, eight and one-half
years ago, told Dr. Howard L. Hurwitz, Chairman of the Family Defense Council and author
of this response, that nobody believed him. Not until accounts of the gay
clubs were published in the Forward (Sept. 30, 1994), and the mass-circulation
Israeli newspaper Maariv (Jan. 6, 1995), did the secret become public knowledge
among Jews in the United States and Israel. The Christian world learned of the
gay clubs in the New York Times (May 10, 1995) and the Washington Times
(April 28, 1995). The account of gay clubs at Jewish institutions was also reported
in Pro Ecclesia (1995), a Catholic magazine. It has been mentioned on talk
shows in the New York metropolitan area and nationally. The gay clubs at
Yeshiva University are no longer "largely unnoticed". The accuracy
of the reports is unquestionable, except by President Lamm and those who have closed their
eyes to the palpable immorality of keeping the gay clubs and to the violation of Torah
3. Dr. Norman Lamm states, "There are no gay clubs at any of YU's
undergraduate schools...." But if the gay clubs are allowed to continue
in the graduate schools, what will stop their being created in the undergraduate colleges
by those claiming that their absence proves the violation there of gays' alleged
4. President Lamm concedes that there is a "strong prohibition against
homosexual behavior in Jewish law." He alleges that banning the clubs
would "subject" Yeshiva University to the human rights ordinance of the City of
New York; that a "religious exemption" under the NYC human rights law would not
apply. He has been so advised by his attorneys.
The attorneys whom we have consulted are specialists in constitutional law.
They are convinced that the lawyers who have advised President Lamm are
wrong. The YU lawyers base their conclusion that it is illegal to ban
homosexual clubs because the NYC Administrative Code prohibits discrimination in places of
public accommodation "because of...sexual orientation". (Sexual
orientation is the code term for homosexuality.)
If we assume that private universities are "places of
public accommodation", then homosexuals may not be excluded from
"accommodation", that is, enrollment. Does it also mean, as YU's lawyers
assume, that a private university must give positive endorsement to homosexual practices
or a homosexual way of life by permitting and funding an extracurricular gay club?
The attorney, whose reasoning we advance, observes that there is a difference
between excluding blacks on account of their race and refusing to permit a "black
power" or Nation of Islam club on campus. The first is discrimination on
the basis of race; the second is distinction on account of "purposes and
activities". Our constitutional expert states flatly, "It is simply
wrong to conclude that because you may not exclude a person from a university because of
his or her homosexual orientation, that person is entitled to utilize the university's
facilities to encourage homosexuality. A private university's decision not to
reject applicants who have committed adultery does not mean that the university must
permit an Adulterers' Club on campus."
"[This] is the fundamental error of Yeshiva's lawyers. That error
relates not at all to whether or not Yeshiva is a religious institution. Any
private university secular or religious is entitled to draw similar distinctions
based on its own philosophy and the principles it wishes to transmit to its students.
Religious standards are, in this regard, no better or worse than secular
Dr. Norman Lamm's reliance on NYC's human rights law to justify his retention of
gay clubs was exploded this year by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that an almost identical
Massachusetts law was constitutionally invalid because no state or local government has
the power to force any non-governmental organization to provide homosexual activists with
a platform to disseminate their views (John J. Hurley and South Boston Allied War Veterans
Council v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, et al, 1995).
Among other things, the Court's unanimous decision establishes the following
principles: Even though a parade held on a city street is clearly a public event,
the organizers of the parade have a constitutional right to decide what groups and what
messages will be included and excluded. This right exists even if the
organization sponsoring the parade is a purely secular group with no distinctive religious
affiliation. Moreover, the same right extends to situations other than public
parades. The organization has a constitutional right to prohibit interest
groups from using its property as a gathering place for expression of views at odds with
the sponsoring organization's conviction.
Thus, even if President Lamm is correct in contending that Yeshiva University is
now classified as a "non-denominational" institution, that does not deprive YU
of the constitutional right to uphold the Torah-based values for which YU must stand.
5. President Norman Lamm states, "The University administration does not
officially recognize or approve any [his emphasis] student clubs; this is done by
elected student governments." This abdication of university
responsibility is reduced to absurdity when you consider that it allows for looking the
other way if students establish clubs for prostitution or use of illegal drugs.
6. Rabbi Lamm points to his article in the 1974 Encyclopedia Judaica
Yearbook, in which he repudiates homosexual conduct as "utterly
immoral". There is a disparity between Rabbi Lamm's view of homosexuality
before he became president of Yeshiva University and President Lamm's defense of gay
clubs. We shall be quoting at some length from his 1974 views at the
conclusion of this critique.
President Lamm's defense of the gay clubs was first based on alleged loss of
federal and state funding if the clubs were banned. The fact is that there is
no provision in federal, state, or city law that offers special protection for homosexual
clubs in universities. The lost money defense has aroused many orthodox Jews,
and others, who have charged him with placing money before Torah, in which homosexuality
is condemned. President Lamm then expanded his money theme to his role
as defender of the law. We have cited the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision
that any such law is unconstitutional.
We share President Norman Lamm's "compassion for the individual [homosexual]
sufferer". It does not follow that we must accept the gay political
agenda subscribed to by gays who join clubs in which they identify themselves as
homosexual sodomists and seek to advance the gay political agenda.
7. "Does Yeshiva University provide any direct financial support for
the gay clubs?" President Lamm answers: "No.
As required by law."
President Lamm goes on to admit that, "YU provides access to facilities such
as meeting rooms. It does not [his emphasis] appropriate a single penny
of University funds to support gay clubs."
There is a monetary value that can be placed on meeting rooms.
President Lamm fails to acknowledge gay use of the telephone, fax machine, copy machine,
and bulletin boards. This is apart from student funds allotted to the gay
clubs. President Lamm acknowledges that the university collects student funds
that are distributed to student organizations. Gay clubs are funded by the
8. President Norman Lamm asks: "Isn't the distinction between
student activity fees and University funds just a matter of semantics?"
He replies: "No," and cites the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rosenberger
vs. Rectors and Visitors of University of Virginia. Yeshiva
University, however is not a state university, so the decision that allowed for student
funds to publish a Christian magazine is not applicable.
9. Dr. Norman Lamm is advised by his lawyers that the NYC human rights law
exempting "religious and religiously-controlled institutions from the requirements
that homosexuals be afforded equal treatment" does not apply to YU. He is
referring to Section 8108.1 of the law that explicitly excuses from compliance
"any religious or denominational institution...which is operated, supervised, or
controlled by or in connection with a religious organization."
Yeshiva University did change its charter so that it is legally a non-sectarian
university. However, YU advertises in The Jewish Week and other Jewish
publications calling for financial support because of the Jewish values it espouses.
President Norman Lamm would have it both ways non-sectarian and sectarian
the latter for money-raising purposes.
It is of interest to learn that the gay clubs existed in at least one of the three
institutions presided over by Rabbi Norman Lamm before the city law was passed.
At no time, before or since, has Rabbi Lamm acted to deny meeting rooms to
the gay clubs.
Also in argument "9", President Lamm cites "the U.S. Court of
Appeals" decision in Washington, DC, in the matter of Georgetown University, which
unlike YU, is legally organized as a religious institution, that it
"must permit gay clubs despite the Catholic Church's opposition to
homosexuality.... Thus even if YU was a religious or religiously-controlled
institution under the law, it is highly improbable that it could ban gay clubs [his
First, Rabbi Norman Lamm's lawyers falsely cite the Georgetown case as handed down
by a U.S. Court of Appeals. It was, in fact, the District of Columbia Court of
Appeals, not a federal court. Also, we are advised that President
Lamm's lawyers did not make reference to the full decision. The court majority
explicitly distinguished between discrimination based on sexual orientation alone i.e.,
on the homosexual composition of a club and discrimination based on a club's
"purposes and activities". Only because Georgetown was found to have
acted on the basis of "preconceptions about gay persons" and not on the basis of
the gay clubs' "purposes and activities" was it found to have violated the law.
The constitutional lawyer on whose work we are drawing writes: "If
Yeshiva were to prohibit gay clubs, I am sure it would do so not because of
'stereotyping', but because the "purposes and activities" of these clubs would
conflict with the university's principles. This is, I believe, plainly
Second, "[It] is wrong and unreal,that banning gay clubs would [as President
Norman Lamm states,] 'endanger university accreditation as well as funding and even
[raise] the possibility of closing our graduate schools.' Indeed, the most
straightforward procedure would be to submit the legal issue to a court in a declaratory
judgment action i.e., to seek a court ruling before there are any irreversible
consequences. It is a mystery to me why Dr. Lamm has refused to take that
President Lamm also fears "ugly demonstrations involving supporters of gay
rights...." Rather than being intimidated, he should have more confidence
in the NYC Police Department and his own security staff. Universities all over
the country have survived attempted disruption. Should such disruption be
tried at Yeshiva University, the university would triumph, rather than merely survive,
because it would be publicly supporting traditional Jewish moral values.
President Norman Lamm expresses concern about "suspension of state
funding". Here again, money rather than Torah, in which homosexuality is
described as "abomination", is decisive with Rabbi Lamm. As to
"state funding", there is no provision in State of New York law that includes
"sexual orientation", the code term for homosexuals' preferred behavior.
President Lamm's concern about "inquiries from accrediting bodies" is
groundless. There is no record of any accrediting body remarking on the
absence, presence, or banning of gay clubs on campus.
11. President Lamm denies that "YU has 'sold out' its moral principles
for money." But this is a major reason for the widespread objection to
the continued existence of the gay clubs. YU, during the past calendar year,
received exactly $250,020 in direct aid from the U.S. Department of Education.
Even if the funding were a large multiple of that amount, there is a
fundamental moral issue that is basic to the demand for an end to the gay clubs at Jewish
institutions Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education has at no time
indicated an intention to withdraw funding from any university that bans or refuses to
allow gay clubs on campus.
Rabbi Norman Lamm declaims, "[There] is no Halakhic imperative that requires
the University to violate the city law." Here, Rabbi Lamm evokes
obedience to the law as a more palatable public defense of gay clubs, preferable to his
fixation on loss of money from government if he were to ban the clubs.
But there is no such city law. And it is surely an halakhic imperative
for a Jewish institution to abstain from housing a gay club. Inclusion of
"sexual orientation" in the NYC Administrative Code is not a license for gay
clubs at Yeshiva. It is also relevant that inclusion of "sexual
orientation" in the Code was not made until 1986. At least one of the gay
clubs at YU, Einstein, and Cardozo existed prior to 1986. President Lamm's
defense of the gay clubs rested upon possible loss of funding until he mistakenly
perceived amendment of the city code as a base for resting his case on obedience to the
12. President Norman Lamm takes pride in the relationship between Yeshiva
University and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary named after a revered
nineteenth-century rabbi. The seminary is on the same YU campus that harbors
the gay club. Does Rabbi Lamm believe that Rabbi Isaac Elchanan, if he were
alive today, would approve of his defense of gay clubs?
13. President Lamm reports: "I read in the New York Times that Notre
Dame has banned gay student clubs. How can they do this and YU not?"
He replies: "Notre Dame is located in South Bend, Indiana, which does
not have a gay rights law. YU is in New York City which has such a law."
As we have explained, NYC has no law that offers "special protection"
for gay clubs on either religious or non-sectarian campuses. It is also of
interest to note that President Norman Lamm rejects Notre Dame's action that contrasts
with Yeshiva University's housing of gay clubs because Notre Dame is in another
state. But he seeks to use Georgetown, also a Roman Catholic university, which
is in the District of Columbia. Furthermore, he fails to mention Fordham
University and St John's University, both Roman Catholic colleges in New York
City. Both Fordham and St. John's do not allow gay clubs on
campus. These universities take a moral position that veers sharply from
President Lamm declares that Yeshiva University is "not a religious
entity", but he goes on to justify service of "only kosher food" and its
closure of "libraries and other facilities on Shabbat, and not schedule classes on
Jewish holidays." He then follows with a non-sequitur: Kosher food
is available to all and university facilities are closed to all. Therefore,
"The law does not [his emphasis] permit the University to deny gay groups
access to meeting rooms when other student groups are allowed use of these
Orthodox rabbis who have read this rebuttal of President Lamm's 14 arguments,
agree that President Lamm's defense of gay clubs is not kosher. They
see that he has violated Torah's abhorrence of homosexuality.
FINALLY. In a peroration that departs from the general tone of
President Norman Lamm's "facts", which we have refuted in detail, he declaims:
"It is absurd to demand that YU risk destroying all that it has created...by
disobeying a law that bars it from interfering with the activities of a handful of gay
students whose presence on campus is barely noticed."
This brings us back to square one. Would President Lamm ban gay clubs
if there were many gay students rather than a "handful"? Should he
not by now accept the real facts? He has conjured up laws that do not
exist, funds that will not be withheld, actions by accrediting groups that have no basis
in past experience, demonstrations that may not take place and could be controlled if they
did take place. He has ignored or misunderstood legal decisions that undermine
his arguments. He seems to have closed his mind to protests by many rabbis on
his faculty and others who have written to him, along with Christians who are shocked by
his defense of gay clubs at Jewish institutions, albeit cloaked in non-sectarian garb.
Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm's supporters on the faculty and elsewhere are saddened by
his persistent, unrelenting, unwise defense of gay clubs that should have no place in a
Jewish institution according to his 1974 statement, affirmed as his present
view. He wrote: "[To] assent to the organization of separate 'gay' groups
under Jewish auspices makes no more sense Jewishly, than to suffer the formation of
synagogues that cater exclusively to idol worshippers, adulterers, gossipers, tax evaders,
or Sabbath violators. Indeed, it makes less sense, because it provides, under
religious auspices, a ready-made clientele from which the homosexual can more easily
choose his partners."
President Lamm can no longer believe that gay clubs at Yeshiva, Einstein, and
Cardovo are "barely noticed". Regrettably, their continued presence
is tarnishing the reputation of Jewish institutions. President Lamm's public
relations assistant is of the opinion that the blasts against gay clubs at Yeshiva
University will "blow over". The danger is that if President Lamm
does not see that his "facts" are wrong, the continuing criticism will
irrevocably damage the three prominent institutions over which he has presided for almost
two decades. It is not that the critics who are "tarnishing"
the reputation of YU, as President Lamm has suggested, but President Lamm's failure to
acknowledge that his legal and other advisers have been wrong on just about every count.
We hope that this response to President Lamm's 14 arguments defending gay clubs at
Yeshiva, Einstein, and Cardozo will motivate President Lamm to do right and, thereby, be
in accord with Jewish law and the traditional family values of the great majority of