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Duke University Rejects Student Group Over Homophobic Policy

Duke University

Young Life bars those who "practice a homosexual lifestyle" from staff and volunteer positions.

Duke University's student government won't grant official recognition to a student group that explicitly prohibits LGBTQ students from volunteering.

A campus chapter for Young Life applied for official recognition at the private university. But the Christian group's national rules prohibit those "who practice a homosexual lifestyle" from serving in volunteer or staff positions.

That prompted the student Senate at the school to unanimously reject giving Young Life status as an official Duke student group, according to campus newspaper The Chronicle.

Young Life already has a presence on campus, but official recognition would allow the group to use campus facilities for meetings.

Student government officials said the status could not be granted because the organization's rules stand in conflict with the university's nondiscrimination policies. They require any official student groups to also adopt a policy that says any students can participate in the group without facing discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

"They don't have a nondiscrimination clause in their constitution; they have a discrimination clause," said Sen. Jackson Kennedy.

Young Life leaders said LGBTQ students could participate in club meetings, but could not work in staff or leadership positions because the group cannot violate national rules.

"We cannot go outside the bounds of national policies," said Jeff Bennett, a Young Life member and a student at Duke's Divinity School.

However, representatives with the national Young Life organization may be more flexible than Bennett presumed.

Terry Swenson, Young Life vice president of communications, told NBC News it will work with the Duke chapter on compliance with university rules.

"We understand the student senate's decision and appreciate their consideration," Swenson told NBC. "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."

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