Duke University’s student government denied official status to a religious organization because it excludes LGBTQ people from holding leadership positions.
“They don’t have a nondiscrimination clause in their constitution; they have a discrimination clause,” Jackson Kennedy, a student senator, said of the group, Young Life, according to the Duke Chronicle.
Young Life is a national Christian organization with an unofficial presence at the prestigious North Carolina university. When the group tried to attain official recognition, it was unanimously rejected last week by student senators, who cited the university’s nondiscrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination on the basis sexual orientation and gender identity, among other characteristics.
The Colorado-based religious group claims it doesn’t discriminate against those “who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace.” Yet its policy also states that individuals “who practice a homosexual lifestyle” can’t serve as staff or volunteers.
“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 purposes,” its statement of faith reads.
A member of Young Life’s Duke chapter, Jeff Bennett, said the university’s chapter can’t breach the national policy, which denies LGBTQ individuals from pursuing leadership. However, the organization’s vice president of communications, Terry Swenson, said Young Life would be willing to work with its Duke chapter if it continues to pursue official recognition.
“We understand the student senate’s decision and appreciate their consideration,” Swenson told NBC News in an email. “If the Duke students involved with Young Life decide to re-apply, we will work with them to create an application that complies with the university’s expectations.”
The issue playing out between Duke and Young Life echoes a similar situation that recently occurred at the University of Iowa. Student group Business Leaders in Christ had its group registration stripped in 2017 after a gay member was prohibited from seeking a leadership position. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the university was wrong to penalize the group, claiming the school had unevenly applied its human rights policy by allowing other groups to limit membership based on religion, race, sex and other protected characteristics.