Duke University Gives Christian Organization “Young Life” the Boot!

(Full disclosure:  Our church has a relationship with Young Life.  We are partnering with them to reach young people for Christ in the Bronx River neighborhood in the South Bronx where our church <Infinity Bible Church> serves.  So if you want to accuse me of having a bias, that’s fair enough.  But please withhold that judgment until you read the entire article.)

Duke University’s student government has denied the Christian organization Young Life official status as a student group on its campus.  The issue is Young Life’s position on homosexuality:

“We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle 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.”

Let me summarize Young Life’s policy:  Young Life will not hire (paid staff or volunteer) anyone who is practicing a homosexual lifestyle.  But they will minister to anyone on campus.

The word that the Duke University student senate keeps throwing around is “discrimination.”  Since Young Life will not hire a practicing homosexual, they are accused of discriminating. 

Let’s analyze the word “discriminate.”  As I serve in a church which is attended largely by African Americans and other minorities, I am sensitive to the word “discriminate.”  The word has a painful history.  It reminds us of the days when an African American had to sit in the back of the bus.  It reminds us of separate (but NOT equal) schools for whites and blacks.  It reminds us of “White Only” restrooms and restaurants that would only serve white people.  Folks, THAT’S discrimination!  But Young Life not employing practicing homosexuals is NOT the same thing at all.  Let me give some analogies:

  1. I am pro-life.  If I applied for a job at Planned Parenthood and they didn’t hire me (knowing that I was pro-life) would that be discrimination?
  2. If a Muslim applied to be an assistant pastor at my church, and I didn’t hire him, would that be discrimination?
  3. If a Christian put in an application to be the president of “The University of Atheists” (Yes, I just made that up, but you get the point!) and UOA didn’t hire him, is that discrimination?
  4. Did President Obama discriminate when he hired only Democrats to be in his cabinet?

None of these are examples of discrimination.  Any organization, especially a non-profit, is going to hire people whose beliefs and values correspond to their own.

Who is being rejected here?  Who is being excluded?  Who is being called names?  Who is being deprived of speech?  I absolutely agree that there is discrimination happening at Duke University.  But it isn’t coming from Young Life.  It is coming from the student government at Duke University!

This kind of discrimination against Christian college campus ministries is happening all over the country.  And when Christian organizations take these colleges to court, generally, the Christian organizations are winning.  But the Duke University situation is different.  Duke is a private university.  They have a lot more freedom to exclude people and organizations they want to exclude.  And I support their right to do so.  I don’t like their decision, but I support their right to make it.  But there are Christian alumni from Duke all over the world.  They also have rights.  They have the right to stop supporting their alma mater since it has become hostile toward Christian organizations.  I encourage the Christian alumni of Duke University to exercise that right!

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