Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Well they're in the Bronx

If this be so, then the contentions of the defendant as to the inappropriateness of Yeshiva University and Planned Parenthood occupying space in the same commercial office building are of little moment. Indeed, the argument that there is a fundamental conflict in [***14] the outlook of these two groups with respect to the need and practice of birth control is a matter of theological disputation in which courts should not be immersed. "Be fruitful, and multiply" commands the Bible, (Genesis, I, 28.) But the Talmud recognizes the propriety of birth control by females to preserve life and health. (See Guttmacher, "Traditional Judaism and Birth Control", 16 Judaism, No. 2, pp. 159-165 [1967].)

Defendant's own witness, Dr. Alvin I. Schiff conceded that less than 10% of the Jewish population would find the activities of Planned Parenthood anathema to them, but felt the potential controversy that might be engendered even with this small but intensely devout group was ample justification for refusing consent to the sublease. If indeed the potentiality for controversy were a serviceable standard for measuring the acceptability of a subtenancy, many of our most socially useful institutions would be homeless vagrants on the streets, and [*37] our buildings would be [**163] tenanted by bland, unexceptionable models of propriety and dullness. Even proponents of unpopular ideas are entitled to a roof over their heads. Landlords are not censors -- [***15] their dominion is over realty, not ideas. Their ownership of property does not confer upon them the right to reject subtenants merely because their ideas differ from their own.

The contradictions in the defendant's position are highlighted by the undisputed testimony that the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, one of the most prestigious components of Yeshiva University gives a course on birth control, that it sponsors four birth control clinics, and that its head of the department of gynecology and obstetrics also serves as chairman of the medical committee of Planned Parenthood. When asked if this was a source of embarrassment to the university administration, the answer forthcoming was, "Well, they're in the Bronx". In other words, since Planned Parenthood would be listed on the building directory, defendant is more fearful of being tarred with the brush of association by proximity than with association by actual affiliation! I find its fears that somehow the occupancy of space in its building by the executive offices of Planned Parenthood (not for a clinic or for public meetings, mind you) would inhibit the university's fund-raising activities are entirely without foundation.

American Book Co. v. Yeshiva University Development Foundation

297 N.Y.S.2d 156
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