Young Life Banned from Duke University

Last month, the Duke Student Government Senate unanimously voted against giving official recognition to the school’s Young Life chapter, claiming that it’s leadership standards were discriminatory. 

Young Life is a 78-year-old Christian organization with a mission to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith. It has chapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges in all 50 states and more than 90 countries around the world.

According to the Duke Chronicle, Young Life had requested “official recognition to recruit and support a greater number of students, as it already has a following on campus. But Young Life was rebuffed over concerns about the national organization’s policies concerning LGBTQ+ leaders.” 

Young Life was rejected because they have a biblically based Sexual Misconduct Policy for their leaders. This policy states, 

“The Scriptures are also clear that sexual activity outside of these creation purposes, either of heterosexual or homosexual nature, is a rejection of the divine creation purpose to reflect the glory of God to the creation.

With regard to the delicate matter of homosexual lifestyle and practice, in the light of the biblical data regarding creation, Young Life believes such activities to be clearly not in accord with God’s creation purpose.

We do not in any way which to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients 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.”

Because of this ban, Duke’s Young Life chapter will not be officially recognized and will not have access to university spaces or funding. 

It is ironic that Duke University, from it’s founding, has ties to the United Methodist Church. And, for the time being, the UMC Book of Discipline does not allow practicing homosexuals to be “certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.”

Many colleges and universities today are attempting to exclude religious groups because of their positions on sexuality and those who require faith statements for their leaders. “Most of the time universities back down because it’s a violation of students’ First Amendment rights,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law firm that defends religious freedom cases. However, since Duke is a private institution, they might not have the same obligations under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause that a public institution does.

Pray for the Young Life students who attend Duke University and their ministry to the Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. They do not plan to challenge the decision to ban their group from campus, but they can meet off-campus and continue to make a difference for Christ within their community. 

Photo credit: Frank Starmer/Flickr