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Duke refuses to recognize Christian student club because of leadership ban on ‘homosexual lifestyle’

Everyone is allowed to be a member of the club, however

The Christian student organization Young Life excludes two categories from leadership: “persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle.”

The latter is apparently a ban on practicing homosexuals, not Christians who identify as gay and believe their faith requires them to remain celibate.

The Duke Student Government Senate didn’t see a distinction, and used the organization’s orthodox Christian beliefs on sexuality to deny official recognition to a proposed Young Life chapter last week.

The prospects for the club didn’t look good at the previous week’s meeting. Even as they tabled the motion, citing the need to hear from Young Life members directly, senators cited the club’s views on sexuality as a reason to reject it, The Duke Chronicle reported at the time:

“They don’t have a non-discimination [sic] clause in their constitution; they have a discrimination clause,” said Senator Jackson Kennedy, a sophomore.

Senator Manish Kumar, a senior, noted that Young Life bars LGBTQ+ individuals from leadership positions and suggested that this policy violated the Student Organization Finance Committee’s requirement that every Duke student group include a non-discrimination statement in its constitution.

MORE: Judge bans university from targeting Christians with nondiscrimination policy

Kennedy specifically objected to Young Life’s leadership ban on Willamette University’s Conner Mertens, a bisexual football player who credited the group with turning around his life.

Young Life members spoke at last week’s meeting. Currently they have to drive to Chapel Hill, about a half-hour from campus, to attend official meetings, one of them told the Chronicle.

Prodded by senators to change the group’s policies, Young Life members said they couldn’t do that and still carry the national organization’s name. Answering a senator who said the leadership ban could also discourage LGBTQ participation in the club, another member said Young Life has an explicit provision allowing those who do not practice heterosexuality to become members.

Kennedy, the senator, again raised his objection to the club, claiming its policy contradicts Duke’s nondiscrimination policy. “No positive speech on the topic was given,” and the Senate unanimously rejected the application, according to the Chronicle.

Club member Rachel Baber told Campus Reform that it does not plan to challenge the rejection.

The College Fix has asked Duke media relations to explain the latitude of the Senate to pick and choose which student groups to officially recognize, particularly in response to a behavioral rule like Young Life’s; whether its bylaws allow for viewpoint-based rejections; and the grounds under which the administration will overrule a Senate decision.

Read the report.

MORE: University lets Christian student club pick its own leaders to resolve suit

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.