Sunday, June 06, 2021

YU's Courageous Decision

Kay Lahusen (right) at a 1967 demonstration (WP)
Gay rights activist, photojournalist Kay Lahusen died a few days ago at age 91. 

Back in prehistoric times (the late sixties) I was a post high school Yeshiva student at  HTC. In those days almost all of us attended college with an eye towards Parnassa (making a living). My major at the time was psychology. One of the things that was written in stone back then was that homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. That is what we were taught by our professors. And that is how textbooks described it. I received my bachelor’s degree in 1969. A few short years later in 1973 the APA (American Psychological Association) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. 

Kay Lahusen’s early advocacy for gay rights is largely credited for the APA’s decision to do that. Which makes me kind of wonder whether that change was more political than it was scientific. Be that as it may. That decision changed everything. Back then people who had same sex attractions were all in the closet. Identifying as gay made one a pariah among their friends and peers. They were forced to pretend to be straight. Which also caused many of them to be so clinically depressed that suicide was sometimes considered an option. As it so often is for anyone that is clinically depressed. 

Kay Lahusen got the ball rolling. Today, homosexuality is all but completely normalized. Going from being considered abnormal behavior to becoming completely normal. so much so that gay marriage is now the law of the land!  

The mainstream media is clearly on board with that. They consider the lifestyle of gay people to be just as legitimate as straight people. I suppose their sense of fairness leads them to feel that way.  I completely understand that if you consider that the current consensus by mental health experts is that human beings are hard wired to their sexual preferences. Whether or not there is a gay gene is a matter of debate. But what is not debated it seems is that - whether it is nature or nurture - sexual  preferences are determined at a very early age and do not change. One can change their behavior but not which sex they are attracted to. (Whether or not it is a good idea to change your behavior to something that is against your nature is beyond the scope of this post.) 

My own view is that as these things are now understood, we must accept that reality and treat gay people with the same dignity we treat straight people. Persecuting someone because of who they are attracted to should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. 

On the other hand, if you are a believing Jew (or even a Christian or Muslim for that matter), to completely normalize a gay lifestyle is also wrong. The bible is very clear on this matter. Gay sex is forbidden. There is no way to re-interpret a clear and unambiguous biblical statement. Homosexual sex is considered a capital sin in the ‘eyes’ of God. 

None of this is new. I’ve said it all before. How can we reconcile the Torah’s prohibition with the understanding of, and respect  for gay people that I advocate? I don’t see a problem. There is a difference between understanding and respect on the one hand and full acceptance of a lifestyle conducive to sin – on the other. In my view this is exactly what God wants of us. Which is basically to reject the sin and not the sinner. Leaving the sinner in God’s hands. 

Sadly respect for the biblical approach has long ago been abandoned by the mainstream media. They make no such distinction. They see no moral difference between gay and staright lifestyles. They are considered morally equivalent.  A matter of personal choice. They might argue that it is nobody’s business what goes on in the privacy of the bedroom – whether it is gay or staright sex. I actually agree with that. What I do not agree with is giving it moral equivalency.  

Unfortunately the  media is very influential in determining what is considered moral. As is the entertainment industry whose attitude  on the subject makes the media look almost conservative by comparison. They seem to celebrate homosexuality more than they do heterosexuality. 

These two massive influential entities cannot help but influence how most Americans view it. I don’t know the numbers. But it would not surprise me if most Americans actually agree with them. Certainly our public servants in various legislative bodies seem to agree as do the courts. Which is why gay marriage is now legal. 

That just tells me how the bible is increasingly seen as irrelevant by the American public. What man determines is moral is what makes it moral. 

But not this American. Nor any other American that takes the bible seriously. Life is complicated and careful distinctions need to be made if we are to maintain our religious beliefs..

Which brings me to the decision made recently by YU (Yeshiva University). To their credit they had the courage to resist pressure to allow a gay club on their campus - despite the fact that they are a nonsectarian college that that receives government funds conditioned on non discrimination: 

Yeshiva University is defending its decision to refuse official club status to the Pride Alliance — an unofficial, undergraduate LGBTQ club… 

Back in April, the Pride Alliance, several YU alumni and an anonymous student sued YU, President Ari Berman and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Chaim Nissel for discrimination under New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) for rejecting the Pride Alliance as an official student club. They argued that, as a nonsectarian institution, YU is bound by NYCHRL and must approve the club or lose their funding… 

The university is now arguing that an institution’s nonsectarian status is solely determined through its admissions of students — meaning that it does not discriminate in admitting students. YU adds that, while not being a “religious corporation,” it has always functioned as a religious entity, which exempts it from following NYCHRL that prohibits discrimination. 

Referencing its Torah Umadda mission, emphasis on “Torah values”…YU explained that it is “wholly committed and guided by Halacha and Torah values,” which is why it rejected other student clubs in the past, such as a Jewish AEPi fraternity and a gambling club,  because they appeared not “consistent with Torah values.” 

I believe that YU expresses exactly the attitude that I advocate. They do not discriminate in their admissions policy, but will not allow a social club on its campus. That would send the wrong message of normalizing that lifestyle. Which is not what any organization that calls itself Orthodox can do. It’s just too bad that it goes against the current tide of non biblical values overtaking the country.