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Orthodox Conundrum

Jun 19, 2023

Several well-publicized events in the Orthodox world over the past year have brought the issue of the separation of church and state into sharp relief. These include Yeshiva University’s refusal to recognize the YU Pride Alliance - a refusal which, one year ago, Judge Lynn Kotler of the New York County Supreme Court said was a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law; the case is currently under appeal. Another important situation is the recent uproar over the apparent refusal of numerous Chassidic schools in New York to follow curricular guidelines established by state authorities. And of course, the question of judicial reform in Israel inevitably touches on questions of how much the Israeli government can impose religious law, or provide legal exceptions to religious individuals and groups.

In order to better understand some of the biggest questions surrounding church and state, Scott spoke with Professor Michael Avi Helfand. They discussed several specific situations, including the YU Pride Alliance and the chassidic school issue, to get past the often-incorrect public perception, and outline the actual legal issues in each case. They addressed whether private schools should be eligible for public funding, if this might lead to government authorities dictating educational requirements that Orthodox schools won’t be able to accept, and whether the government’s mandating aspects of the curriculum is necessarily tied to funding in the first place. They also touched on the philosophy behind the separation of church and state, how much of it is rooted in the Constitution and how much is based on broad interpretation, the definition of “core beliefs” and even the word “religion,” and much more.

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Music: "Happy Rock" by