By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
September 18, 2019
The Christian student organization Young Life is not welcome on Duke University’s campus. The student government association at the school, which was founded by Methodists and Quakers in 1838, voted Sept. 11 not to recognize the club because it holds its leaders to the Biblical standard of sexual morality — a policy that the SGA views as not inclusive toward LGBTQ students and therefore a violation of Duke’s nondiscrimination policy.
Leaders of the Duke Young Life chapter, who currently have to drive off-campus for meetings, made it clear that all are welcome to join the group, but leaders must share their Christian beliefs. In fact, Young Life’s official policy regarding sexual misconduct clarifies that “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.”
Duke’s policy discriminates against the Christ of orthodox Christianity – something its founders, no doubt, would have deemed horrid. Discrimination is not always bad. Discrimination against sin is pleasing to God.”– Rev. Mark Creech
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, pointed out the common-sense logic of Young Life’s policy.
“Understandably all of the campus ministry groups are led by persons who adhere to their respective faiths. The Muslim campus ministry won’t hire a Catholic to lead it, and the Catholic group won’t hire a Baptist or a Hindu,” Tooley wrote in a blog where he described Young Life’s statement regarding sexual purity as identical to that of the United Methodist Church, whose social principles affirm sexual relations only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
He says Young Life may not be the only group in danger of being denied recognition. (Clubs that aren’t recognized can’t use university facilities, promote themselves at street fairs, etc.)
“The Duke student senate presumably hasn’t yet tried to challenge or oust long existing campus ministries only because of their longevity. But its rejection of Young Life implies that any traditional religious group would have trouble gaining new access to Duke University in the current political environment.”
The irony of the situation did not escape Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who pointed out the Duke University motto, which can still be found on some of its buildings, is “education and religion.”
“There is this effort to push religion out of the public square, to silence Christians, and this is a perfect example,” Perkins says. “An institution founded as a religious university now saying that a group that adheres to a Biblical standard of sexual morality is not welcome.”
Tooley described Duke University as “a large independent corporation that’s mostly indifferent to, if not increasingly embarrassed by, the United Methodist Church.”
“Across decades Duke has journeyed from meaningfully Methodist to generically Christian to religiously neutral to increasingly hostile to traditional religion,” he wrote.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, called the SGA vote “ridiculous and non-sensical but sadly, not surprising.”
“Duke is not alone in its quest to replace dedication to one’s faith and commitment to freedom of religion with a slavish servility to political correctness,” he said. “The idea that organizations cannot write requirements for leadership that are contrary to certain behaviors, and, therefore, deemed discriminatory by those who obviously know little or nothing of true religion or religious liberty, is patently absurd. Admittedly, the policy does discriminate – it discriminates against unrighteousness. Moreover, Duke’s policy discriminates against the Christ of orthodox Christianity – something its founders, no doubt, would have deemed horrid. Discrimination is not always bad. Discrimination against sin is pleasing to God.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said the anti-discrimination policy has become the “loyalty oath” of the modern academy.
“A moment’s thought will reveal both the extraordinary threat to religious liberty and the utter wrong-headedness of using ‘anti-discrimination’ policies to discriminate against religious belief,” the group asserts in its Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus. “In the modern university, it is now considered improper for religious groups to use religious principles to make religious decisions about their religious missions.”
While FIRE admits that students on private university campuses do not have the same First Amendment protections as those at public institutions, the Foundation encourages students to become familiar with the rights afforded them by federal and state statutes and state common law. Private universities, such as Duke, are bound to keep their promises to students. If in their catalogues, student handbooks and disciplinary codes they tout their campus as a place of legal equality, nondiscrimination and religious liberty, they must deliver by treating all groups the same.
The issue, according to the FIRE guide is will the university permit students to follow the dictates of their conscience when they are neither interfering with the legitimate rights of others nor threatening their health or safety?
“In that context, it is crucial to understand that the ‘legitimate rights of others’ do not include the ‘right’ not to be offended or excluded by the membership criteria, beliefs, and activities of a religious group. There is no such ‘right,’” FIRE reports. “Instead, each student has a right to believe, to practice his beliefs, and to associate with others who are willing to associate with him or her. No one has a ‘right” to force himself or herself into another’s expressive or religious group.”