At many colleges, registered student organizations receive special perks. They get free meeting space, the ability to advertise on campus, access to food and office space, possible grant money for events, etc. In return, however, those groups have to abide by some basic rules.
That’s true at Duke University, too, even though it’s a private school. The only relevant catch is that all registered groups must include a nondiscrimination statement in their constitutions. That statement would apply to members, leaders, and staffers.
The Christian group Young Life, however, doesn’t want to play along. They told Duke that they couldn’t allow gay leaders or staffers in their group because “such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”
Duke’s response was simple: That’s fine. But then you don’t get to be a registered student group. You’ll just have to fend for yourselves.
This isn’t a new story, by the way. Other universities have also cracked down on Christian groups with similar policies, which some members argue is the same as discriminating against Christianity itself. In 2015, California State University allowed Christian groups to discriminate while reaping the benefits of campus recognition. Legislators in some states even sponsored bills that would allow Christians to discriminate without being penalized for it.
It’s still an open question whether gay or lesbian students who promise to remain celibate can hold those staff or leadership positions in Young Life. In any case, the school is simply following its own rules while the Christian group wants special treatment. It’s not a complicated case. No one’s stopping them from promoting Jesus or praying with each other, but they don’t deserve any perks if they refuse to play by the rules.
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