Hoylman-Sigal Calls Out Yeshiva-Cardozo on Duplicity

By Arthur Schwartz

Village-Chelsea State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal has asked the State Inspector General to look at millions of dollars given to the university, which has argued it is a religious institution, not an educational one, to justify its ban on an L.G.B.T.Q. club.

But that raises questions about whether it can receive public funds designated for schools.

A state inspector has been asked to review whether Yeshiva University, which is in a court battle with a group of L.G.B.T.Q. students over whether it must recognize their campus club, should have received $230 million in taxpayer funds after the university has said in its court filings that it is a religious institution and not an educational institution. (If it was found to be an educational institution–which has been the rulings to date—it cannot discriminate against funding L.G.B.T.Q .student groups.)

CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL OUTLAW. Photo courtesy of Outlaw.

The referral could lead to a significant escalation in a complex case in which the university has argued in court that it is a Modern Orthodox Jewish religious institution, which would exempt it from anti-discrimination laws and allow it to reject the club. Before the 2021 lawsuit, Yeshiva described itself as an educational institution, which made it eligible for taxpayer funds but obliged it to follow city and state nondiscrimination laws.

Earlier this year, critics said that the university’s legal argument raised alarm bells because it had for decades accepted public funds to pay for the construction and renovation of its facilities. One critic, State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, accused Yeshiva of misrepresenting itself to obtain at least $230 million and asked the university to provide a full account within 30 days of how it had spent those funds.

Yeshiva declined to do so, said Hoylman-Sigal, the chair of the State Senate Judiciary Committee. In a letter sent last week, he asked the New York State Inspector General, Lucy Lang, to investigate whether the university had misled the government “to qualify for low-cost, tax-exempt bond financing.”

The college’s “discriminatory behavior and claimed status appear to be at odds with the statements Y.U. made to obtain state bond financing,” Hoylman-Sigal said in his letter to Lang.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hoylman-Sigal said, “Regardless of anyone’s motives, misrepresentation to procure public money is dishonest and could potentially violate state law.”

In a statement on Monday, Andrew Lauer, the university’s vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, instead said lawmakers were laboring under “a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts and the law.”

He declined to respond to questions about whether the university had misled the state or why it declined to comply with lawmakers’s request for documents.
“Religious institutions are not precluded from receiving financing from” the state, Lauer said.

He added that it was “false and offensive” to say the university discriminated against L.G.B.T.Q. students because administrators founded a religiously-based club for members of the community last year. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs rejected that compromise, saying it imposed rules on their club to which other clubs were not subjected.