FAMILY
DEFENSE
COUNCIL

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    Howard L. Hurwitz, Chairman


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October 1995

DR. NORMAN LAMM &
YESHIVA UNIVERSITY GAY CLUBS


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 Lamm, 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 precepts.

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 civil rights.

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 standards." 

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 student government.

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 8–108.1 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 emphasis]."

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 permissible."

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 course."

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 law.

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 YU's.

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 facilities."

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 Americans.

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