Eastern Orthodox churches back Orthodox Jewish school’s religious freedom at New Jersey Supreme Court High court to decide if Jewish school can select faithful teachers without government intrusion
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 email@example.com
WASHINGTON – A group of Eastern Orthodox churches just filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court of New Jersey in support of an Orthodox Jewish school’s freedom to choose who carries out its mission without government interference. In Hyman v. Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, an Orthodox Jewish school announced in a letter to parents that, after consulting with religious advisors, it had parted ways with a rabbi who the Yeshiva said violated Orthodox Jewish law by engaging in inappropriate conduct with his elementary age female students. The rabbi then sued the school, arguing he had been defamed and that the yeshiva should have to go to court to fight for its right to make its religious decisions. Becket filed a brief on behalf of Serbian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, and Antiochian Orthodox church bodies in support of Rosenbaum Yeshiva to explain the vital importance of allowing religious groups to select, control, and discipline their leaders no matter what their faith tradition.
Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey is a Jewish day school located in the town of River Edge, NJ. The school exists to help young Jewish men and women excel academically while remaining committed to Torah learning and Orthodox Jewish traditions. After concluding that one of its teachers, Rabbi Shlomo Hyman, made inappropriate contact with female students, the school ended his contract and wrote a letter to parents informing them of the Yeshiva’s decision. Hyman then filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state, claiming he was defamed and that the Yeshiva should have to defend its religious decision about its ministers in civil court.
“The courts of New Jersey should not be deciding who serves as an Orthodox Jewish rabbi or an Orthodox Christian priest,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “That is way above their pay grade.”
Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of the Diocese of Eastern America of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, the Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas, and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Becket’s brief explains which kinds of claims come within the ministerial exception, a legal doctrine that protects religious groups’ ability to select and govern their ministers. The brief details the importance of allowing religious groups to control and discipline leaders. While some claims fall outside of the exception—like a priest who sues a bishop for punching him in the face—it protects religious groups from defamation claims such as the one brought by Hyman.
“Religious groups should be free to act forcefully to protect the children in their care,” said Rassbach. “We are hopeful that the Court will make clear that decisions about who should be a rabbi or priest are no business of judges and juries.”
Oral argument is possible sometime in 2024.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-349-7219.