Duke University refuses to recognize Young Life student group over ban on LGBT leadership

The campus of Duke University, located in Durham, North Carolina. | (Photo: Duke Photography)

Duke University’s student government voted against giving official recognition to the North Carolina-based school’s Young Life chapter due to the organization having a ban on openly LGBT leadership.

The Duke Student Government Senate unanimously voted last week to reject recognition for the Christian student group, claiming that the leadership standards were discriminatory.

Specifically, Young Life reportedly violated the Student Organization Finance Committee’s guideline mandating a nondiscrimination statement for student group constitutions, according to the Duke Chronicle.

According to Young Life’s sexual misconduct policy, “persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle” are not excluded “from being recipients of ministry of God's grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ.”

“We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life,” stated the policy, as reported by the Chronicle.

As a result of the rejection, Duke’s Young Life chapter will not have access to campus spaces and university funding. However, it can still operate among the student body.

The Christian Post reached out to the Durham-Chapel Hill chapter of Young Life but they were unable to return comment by press time.

Duke provided CP with a statement from Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for Student Affairs, explaining that Young Life is one of many unrecognized groups “active among students on Duke's campus.”  

“Young Life was not able to meet those standards when applying to become a recognized student group this fall. Young Life can continue to operate in the community and with Duke students as it has for many years,” explained McMahon.

“Duke is committed to an environment free from discrimination, and our policies encourage an inclusive community that respects and values all of its members. This commitment is reflected in Duke Student Government's guidelines and policies for official student organizations.”

In the same student government meeting, the senators unanimously approved the chartering of the Sikh Society, which aims to raise awareness of the religion on campus.

Rachel Baber, a Young-Life leader for Durham-Chapel Hill, told the conservative publication Campus Reform that they do not plan to challenge the rejection decision.

Duke has historic ties to the United Methodist Church going back to its founding. Until 2016, for example, two-thirds of its trustees were chosen by the UMC's North Carolina Conference and Western North Carolina Conference. 

At present, the UMC Book of Discipline states that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be “certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

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