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Chabad Loses Lawsuit Against Northwestern University

December 30, 2013 By:
JTA
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The Tannenbaum Chabad House in Evanston. Photo from nuchabad.org

A federal judge dismissed a religious discrimination lawsuit filed against Northwestern University by Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois.

Judge John Darrah of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last week ruled that Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., had “legitimate, nondiscriminatory” reasons for disaffiliating with the Tannenbaum Chabad House near campus, the Daily Northwestern student newspaper reported on Dec. 26.

In September 2012, the university cut ties with the Chabad House and director Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein after reports that the rabbi served underage students wine and hard alcohol.

In the lawsuit, Chabad claimed that the university discriminated against the religious organization, disaffiliating with it while campus fraternities and sororities also were guilty of underage drinking.

The judge said in his summary judgment that Chabad was “comparing apples to oranges,” according to the Daily Northwestern. The university has a different disciplinary system for religious groups and fraternities.

The rabbi told the Daily Northwestern that he did not violate any laws because the alcohol was consumed in the framework of a religious ceremony, which is legal according to state law. The university countered that it does not have an exemption for religious meetings.

According to the court documents, a student was taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning at a Chabad party sometime after 2001.

The university investigation came after the father of a 2012 Northwestern graduate expressed concerns to the university about alcohol at Chabad, according to the newspaper, citing court documents.

The Chabad House continues to operate in Evanston, with Klein as its director. Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, the director of Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois, told the student newspaper that the group would appeal the decision.

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