The Cathedral Vs. Yeshiva
Yeshiva was represented in the lawsuit by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a high-profile public-interest legal and education firm based in Washington, D.C.
Eric Baxter, the vice president of the Becket Fund and the lead attorney on the case, said the judge’s semantic analysis had led to an “obviously mistaken” ruling that missed the forest for the trees.
“Courts don’t get to quibble over whether you said enough in your article of incorporation about your religious character,” Mr. Baxter said. “That is contrary to clearly established case law that says courts don’t get to second-guess a religious institution’s religious activities when its religious characteristics are plain and obvious.”
He added: “There are few religious institutions of higher education that are more religious than Yeshiva.”
Mr. Baxter shared documents in court that illustrated how religion shapes Yeshiva’s operations, including a policy that encourages students to undertake intensive religious studies in Israel, with 80 percent doing so; a requirement that male students spend between one and six hours a day studying the Torah; and another policy stipulating that every door on campus must show a mezuza, a traditional religious item.
Yeshiva also said that student government officers are instructed to help the administration “maintain the religious atmosphere on campus” and that student clubs and other activities are reviewed for “religious compliance.”
“Nobody goes to Yeshiva University thinking they are getting a strictly secular education, and courts cannot get into the business of saying, ‘Well this isn’t religious education, this is secular education,’” Mr. Baxter said.
This is a completely bizarre ruling. How willfully blind do you have to be to say that Yeshiva is not a religious institution? Something tells me that the judge had her mind made up before the first arguments were heard. Another thing that ticks me off is that LGBT rights are widely accepted and celebrated in nearly every college and university in this land. Yeshiva is one of a relative handful of institutions of higher education where people who choose to attend do not have to violate their religious consciences by burning a pinch of incense to the LGBT Caesar. But the Grand Inquisitors of the new religion will not tolerate any dissent. Their god is a jealous god. LGBT has been baptized by capitalism and is now one of the Blessings Of Liberty™ that the United States must establish firmly here, and export like
cultural imperialists missionaries the world over. The consequences of this activism are completely and totally irrelevant. The loss of traditional liberties, and the crushing of religious believers who do not submit, don’t matter, as long as the Narrative is locked in. We should have learned this long ago with the general indifference towards inner-city violence that would be national news if it happened in the suburbs.
This particular ruling seems to have hinged on a technicality — in 1967, Yeshiva amended its charter to call itself an educational institution. Of course, it has never stopped being religious, and presumably its administration and trustees took for granted that this was widely accepted and uncontroversial; after all, their name is Yeshiva. Since I am a higher education administrator, I know how decisions are made inside universities — most likely, back in 1967, the amendment to the charter allowed Yeshiva to apply for federal grants and funding that might not have been available to it otherwise. Somewhere in a filing cabinet the minutes of the meeting where that decision was made may exist. Or they may not. Now, here they are.This ruling terrifies me more than anything that’s happened in this space recently. If religious people are to ever follow the Benedict Option and make a strategic retreat from secular institutions, we will need religious higher educational institutions, and not just Christian ones. We need Yeshiva, we need a Muslim equivalent, we need a broad array.I’m actually not opposed to LGBTQ+ clubs on public university campuses like mine. We are state-funded and we need to treat RUF, Hillel, the atheist clubs, the Muslim Students Association, the LGBTQ clubs, and every other one, equally. We are bound by the First Amendment.But this Yeshiva ruling is an unprecedented assault on religious freedom. I despise Donald Trump, I voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, but today I hope this case gets to the Supreme Court quickly, and thank God for Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. (I’m still a little queasy about Kavanaugh….)I say this knowing that resting my hope in politicians or judges is a form of defeat. I’m a professor, I know that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Fighting the lawsuit may be a bulwark — or may just be buying time.
The Culture War is really a War of Religion. We are fighting Moldbug’s Cathedral, which, if you don’t know the concept, read this:
I notice more people using this label, which I coined a long long time ago, and have always had ambivalent aesthetic feelings about. I used a capital C, but I see more of the miniscule and I think it’s better.
“The cathedral” is just a short way to say “journalism plus academia”—in other words, the intellectual institutions at the center of modern society, just as the Church was the intellectual institution at the center of medieval society.
But the label is making a point. The Catholic Church is one institution—the cathedral is many institutions. Yet the label is singular. This transformation from many to one—literally, e pluribus unum—is the heart of the mystery at the heart of the modern world.
The mystery of the cathedral is that all the modern world’s legitimate and prestigious intellectual institutions, even though they have no central organizational connection, behave in many ways as if they were a single organizational structure.
Most notably, this pseudo-structure is synoptic: it has one clear doctrine or perspective. It always agrees with itself. Still more puzzlingly, its doctrine is not static; it evolves; this doctrine has a predictable direction of evolution, and the whole structure moves together.
The Cathedral is now every institution in modern Western life. Mostly what’s left to us devotees of rival religions is guerrilla warfare and subversion. Let’s get on with it. In the meantime, understand that we are fighting for our right to exist, and that if that means voting for political candidates we find distasteful, but who will stand up for us when the more respectable ones will not, then we have no choice to be vote for our allies.
UPDATE: A religious liberty lawyer writes: