duke university methodism discrimination

Duke University, Methodism & Discrimination

on September 17, 2019

The Student Government Senate of United Methodist related Duke University in North Carolina has refused to recognize Young Life, an evangelical young adult ministry, because it upholds traditional views on sex, which was deemed “discrimination.”

Young Life’s Statement of Faith affirms in sexual conduct only “intimate sexual activity between married heterosexual partners.” Their policy is identical to the United Methodist Church’s, whose Social Principles say “sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

Adding to the contradiction, officially sanctioned campus ministry groups include not only United Methodists but also Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, whose official teachings in marriage and sexuality are the same. There is also a Muslim campus group, which presumably affirms Islamic teaching that sex is only for male/female marriage. And there are several evangelical campus groups long established at Duke, like InterVarsity, which affirm the same orthodox teaching on sex.

In its unanimous vote against Young Life, the Duke student senate cited the by-laws for student organizations prohibiting “discrimination:”

Any group that engages in invidious discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status shall be referred to the university administration under Section 2 of this Title. If and when adjudication by DSG is deemed appropriate, the group shall be punished on conviction for the major offense of Discrimination.

A religious group teaching that sex is only for male/female marriage was deemed discriminatory, but logically the concern should not end there. 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. They, as they promote their respective religions, are discriminatory.

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.

Some traditional Christian groups are facing discrimination at university campuses because of their teachings of unique truth claims at odds with political correctness. In some cases they have successfully litigated against state schools. Duke University is private.

Of course, Duke is private because it was mostly founded and sustained by Methodism across 150 years. But as with nearly all of United Methodism’s 117 schools, the ties to church and Christian faith are increasingly remote.

Duke University is a large independent corporation that’s mostly indifferent to, if not increasingly embarrassed by, the United Methodist Church, despite Duke Divinity School, one of the denomination’s 13 official seminaries. In recent years the longtime policy that two-thirds of Duke’s trustees be nominated by North Carolina’s two United Methodist conferences was eliminated, in favor of a self-nominating board. The United Methodist bishop of North Carolina and one United Methodist minister currently are Duke trustees.

Earlier this year Duke University joined most other nominally United Methodist affiliated schools to denounce United Methodism’s traditional marriage teaching reaffirmed at the church’s governing General Conference in February. Across decades Duke has journeyed from meaningfully Methodist to generically Christian to religiously neutral to increasingly hostile to traditional religion.

As United Methodism globalizes and reconfigures, increasingly inconsequential affiliations with secularized schools likely will be amended or ended. And traditional United Methodists will need to create a new vision of meaningful Methodist higher education.

  1. Comment by TexasBill on September 17, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Many of or colleges and universities can scarcely be distinguished from their secular counterparts. In fact, Duke has a leading research center in paranormal activity…hardly a Christ honoring endeavor. I attended the Divinity School in the late 80s and early 90s. I once recommended Duke to young men and women when Dennis Campbell as Dean and some of the greats like Efird, Steinmetz, and Wainwright were on the faculty. Sadly, I can no longer make that recommendation. I’m embarrassed by what has happened to Duke Divinity School, the goings on at Duke Chapel, and the broader university.

  2. Comment by JR on September 17, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    “At last week’s DSG meeting, senators noted that the national organization’s rule barring LGBTQ+ individuals from leadership positions violates the Student Organization Finance Committee’s guideline that every Duke student group include a nondiscrimination statement in its constitution. ”

    The first question here is, should the Finance Committee have a guideline that requires a nondiscrimination statement in it’s constitution?

    I imagine that there are groups that meet on campus that don’t adhere to that, but they also don’t get financial support, communications, or likely have the ability to secure facilities access for meetings.

    I find the last item noted in the Duke Chronicle to be interestingly ironic:

    “The Senate also unanimously chartered Sikh Society, a club aiming to create a community among those following Sikhism at Duke as well as raise awareness on the religion in general.”

    One assumes the Sikh Society was able to offer up a nondescrimination statement….

  3. Comment by Grieving Observer on September 17, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Many of our United Methodist young people have been nurtured in their faith bu Young Life, Campus Crusade and Youth for Christ. It is beyond sad that these Christian organizations are being barred from Methodist campuses. Malcolm Muggeridge once decried the fact that the great institutions that were born by the church are in the process of destroying the culture and faith that gave them birth. Here is how he put it.

    “So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”
    ― Malcolm Muggeridge, Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society

  4. Comment by April User on September 18, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Spot in quote by Muggeridge. Thank you.

  5. Comment by Rev. Bill Bouknight on September 17, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    As a Duke grad (A.B.-62, Th.M.-65) I am saddened that Liberalism has become so dominant at Duke, and Scriptural authority has been diminished if not eliminated.

  6. Comment by Pudentiana on September 17, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    Dear Lord, send revival or close these institutions, please. Amen.

  7. Comment by Bruce on September 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Another AMEN!

  8. Comment by Jim S. on September 18, 2019 at 8:03 am

    Someone needs to tell these liberals that to ignore the Bible where it is clear homosexuality and other sexual perversions are sin, is to accept sin. It is to become paganists, to become followers of Satan, not God.

  9. Comment by David on September 18, 2019 at 11:15 am

    And what is the Bible’s stance on slavery, genocide, trial by ordeal, freedom of religion, subjugation of women, etc., etc.? One can argue that the Christian trinitarian deity runs afoul of the Old Testament. So-called Bible Believers actually pick and choose those parts they like and ignore the rest.

  10. Comment by Larry on September 18, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Ah yes. The cry of a liberal who doesn’t know Scripture. It’s all too common. You have to read and understand and synthesize the ENTIRE Bible. Liberals are more guilty of pick-and-choose than orthodox. We can do it because we KNOW the full context of a scripture. Liberals only know what they’ve been told. How do I know? The more the Bible is studied the more the complete message becomes clear.

  11. Comment by David on September 18, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Well, at least Duke removed Saint Robert E. Lee from the chapel doorway.

  12. Comment by William on September 18, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Fact check. John Wesley was adamantly opposed to slavery. When the south Methodist church broke away, they were in direct opposition with John Wesley. Thank God for John Wesley.

    As for contemporary Duke, why do these “esteemed institutions of learning” find it necessary to build their reputations on the mocking of orthodox Christianity and the Bible?

  13. Comment by JR on September 18, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    But the BIBLE is not so opposed.

    Which yardstick are you using to measure Duke University?

  14. Comment by Skipper on September 20, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    Paul suggested a slave be freed in Philemon 1. This was skillful so that he didn’t have to command the owner. This was used in support of ending slavery for many years. God and the Bible do not support slavery.

  15. Comment by William on September 23, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    The Bible describes a cultural reality but certainly doesn’t endorse it. Paul apparently opposed it. His statements on slavery obedience was obviously to keep from appearing to support a slave uprising and the bloodbath that would have followed as was the case with other other slave uprisings. Paul made a radical pronouncement pointing out that all were the same in the eyes of God, including slaves.

  16. Comment by James H. on September 25, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Good observation.

    It’s critical to understand that the fledgling church had no power, had no influence, had no platform, and were meeting in secret places. Rome had definitive laws governing slavery, and if the church would have been seen as inciting a slave revolt, it would have done great damage to the gospel message before it got off the ground. Rome would have crushed the church in a way similar to the slave revolt led by Spartacus in 70 BC that resulted in more than 6000 crucifixions.

    I have always found it annoying that it never occurs to some people to check the methodology of their historiography to see how inappropriate it is to expect the ancients who are thousands of years removed from the present to exhibit our morals, our standards, and think they had access to the social development that only took us thousands of years to arrive at.

    The gospel was a radical new message that upturned until then a very dark value placed on human life. Even in the OT, compare it’s regulations on slavery to those of the the surrounding pagan nations. From the perspective of a slave, the Hebrew regulations concerning slavery were new and unique in the way they assigned a higher value to human life. God was calling out a people from among all the nation’s to be his people and the OT is the story of how God would redeem and restore his people to be a blessing to all nations on Earth.

    Where slavery has been practiced, it has been Christian abolitionists who have fought to end it, calling people back like the prophets of old, to the plain teaching of the scriptures about the value and dignity of all human life in God’s eyes. It has been this same unique outward understanding of human life that has led Christians to found schools, colleges, and universities, hospitals and clinics, institutions of Justice, science, and human development.

    How many atheist organizations are there working to bring clean drinking water to impoverished third world developing nations, or medical care, or to bring hope to our most marginalized citizens instead of just passing off our Christian duty wholecloth to the state by political proxy.

    I don’t understand why progressive Christians don’t just go ahead and declare their atheism on what the Bible really says on these issues. That would be more intellectually honest.

  17. Comment by Michael Solis on September 23, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Yes; as if Gen Lee is the big problem of the Civil War.

  18. Comment by Jim on September 18, 2019 at 9:01 am

    This is blatant discrimination against Duke students who practice the Christian Faith. Additionally, this student government action is an assault on religious liberty. Hopefully, young Life will seek the legal assistance of those who take these types of cases. Students don’t run the University. Administration would be wise to step in lest the NCAA and/or the accreditation authority get involved. Christians cannot afford to sit back on defense on this type of abuse.

  19. Comment by JR on September 18, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    “This is blatant discrimination against Duke students who practice the Christian Faith.”

    False premise. https://dukegroups.com/organizations?categories=7557

    Several Christian groups already on campus.

    “Additionally, this student government action is an assault on religious liberty.”

    No, not even close. You should do further reading on that topic to understand where your thoughts have gone awry.

    “Students don’t run the University.”
    You should read up on that.

    “Administration would be wise to step in lest the NCAA and/or the accreditation authority get involved. ”
    Pretty sure that there’s NO chance of accreditation being revoked over this. As I mentioned earlier, there’s some question about whether it’s appropriate for there to be a nondiscrimination requirement for official student groups, but that’s the only real concern here. I can see that other conservative Christian groups (there’s a PCA one on that list that has their Constitution downloadable, and they include a nondescrim statement).

    “Christians cannot afford to sit back on defense on this type of abuse.”

    Christians who don’t take the time to inform themselves of the situation will only make it worse, as we’ll be in a ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation – where everyone ignores the whole outrage machine because of the intentional triggering of people by the outrage industry. Take a few minutes and read the supporting links before you jump.

  20. Comment by Jim on September 19, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Nice try with your condescending remarks. Your comments are nothing but a smoke screen. Nobody’s crying wolf. The situation in higher education is hostile to the students who adhere to the Christian biblical worldview. The intolerance has steadily risen at the campus level and more so within many professional organizations and associations. It’s YOU who should pause before you enter the dialogue.

  21. Comment by JR on September 19, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Pop quiz, Jim – how many Christian student groups are already sanctioned by Duke?

    I’ll wait for your answer.

  22. Comment by Jimbolito2003@yahoo.com on September 20, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Irrelevant- Young Life has been rejected- that is what matters

  23. Comment by Lee D. Cary on September 20, 2019 at 8:49 am

    1 is enough.

  24. Comment by Michelle Haller on September 18, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Mr. Tooley, can you suggest the appropriate people to whom we should direct our outrage over such discrimination? I believe any contact with the student senate who made this decision would be ineffective…so who has the authority to override them? I also would like to address not only the leadership at Duke Univ., but also leadership within the UMC. I assume my Bishop might be one appropriate contact, but if you would suggest another, I’d be willing to send multiple letters/emails, or make phone calls. This is too important to ignore. Thank you!

  25. Comment by Lee D. Cary on September 18, 2019 at 9:43 am

    The Student Government Senate is an example of soft fascism.

    It begins with silencing and marginalizing those with whom a favored group does not agree. (Never mind Free Speech)

    It will advance to calling for the expulsion of the unwanted thinking..

    The Obergruppenführers who run the school (tenured professors and senior administrators) acquiescent in the persecution.

    It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.

  26. Comment by William on September 18, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Of all places in our culture, these universities should be bastions of the First Amendment. Instead, these places have displaced that with this discrimination obsession — especially when it comes to the LGBT+ agenda. Of course real discrimination, as opposed to manufactured discrimination, is wrong. However, who gave these Duke types exclusive and absolute authority to define discrimination and interpretation of the First Amendment?

  27. Comment by JR on September 18, 2019 at 12:38 pm


  28. Comment by JR on September 18, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    “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. They, as they promote their respective religions, are discriminatory.”

    That may be true, but it’s not baked into their student group constitutions.

    Here’s an example, using the Orthodox Christian Fellowship:

    “Article 3: Members
    All undergraduate students at Duke University are eligible for membership. Members must notify the Historian in order to be listed on the official roster. Only members on the official roster are eligible to vote on organization business. The official roster shall be maintained on the DukeGroups directory website.”

    Hey, you don’t have to be an Orthodox Christian to be a member.

    “Article 4: Non-Discrimination
    Duke OCF shall not discriminate on the basis of political ideology, race, color, national and ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation or preference, gender, or age in its membership, activities, and projects. Duke OCF and Duke University shall not tolerate harassment of any kind.”

    Hey, you can be LGBTQ+ and still be part of the group.

    “Article 5: Officers
    Any member of Duke OCF can become an officer after being listed on the official roster for one (1) complete academic semester. Officers shall be elected annually in the Spring semester by a majority vote of the membership and shall take office thirty (30) days prior to the end of the semester…. [more details on the roles of officers]…”

    Hey, you can be an officer of the group, and the only criteria is that you get enough members to vote for you.

    Now it might be hard if you are openly gay to get enough members of the OCF to vote for you, but it’s not baked into the group constitution. And that, right there, is the point of the exclusion of the Young Life group. Put in a simple nondiscrimination sentence, one that EVERY group is required to include, and you’ll pass muster.

    Until you can do that, you can’t be approved as a group.

  29. Comment by William on September 19, 2019 at 11:08 am

    So, the KKK can put in a simple nondiscrimination sentence and they’ll pass the muster with the Duke Student Government Senate?

  30. Comment by JDB on September 18, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    How can an organization discriminate against and organization that it accuses of discrimination. Faulty logic and circular reasoning? I have concluded, based on observation, that liberals tend to be accepting of their point of view only. Hum I believe that flies in the face of all liberal philosophy I have studied. But then again I didn’t go to Duke. I went up north.

  31. Comment by Lee D. Cary on September 18, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    Time to recall the Duke Lacrosse case of 2006 where members of the school’s team were falsely accused of rape.

    “The case’s resolution sparked public discussion of racism, sexual violence, media bias, and due process on campuses, and ultimately led to the resignation and disbarment of the lead prosecutor, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_lacrosse_case)

    “AIG ended up having to pay part of the multi-million settlements that Duke University paid to the three lacrosse stars who were accused of raping a stripper the team had hired for one of their parties, Crystal Gail Mangum, back in 2006.”

    88 Duke professors signed a petition demanding that the 3 accused Lacrosse players be expelled, and condemning them for raping this poor innocent girl, without knowing a single fact of the case nor giving the three students a chance to defend themselves or present their side of the story.

    So with this history, why should this news about Duke be a surprise to anyone?

  32. Comment by Charles H. Walkup, Jr. on September 19, 2019 at 11:34 am

    The problem I see (as one who has dealt with same-sex attraction) is ascendancy over the past 50+ years of “discrimination” over Liberty. Until this is corrected we will continue to waste time/energy.
    Discrimination is NOT a constitutional principle (nowhere in the document). Liberty is the relevant principle. And Liberty is our right as individuals (persons and entities such as a business, campus club, etc.) TO discriminate – to make our own decision without government coercion.
    EXAMPLE: A restaurant declines to serve me because I’m an “old guy” (age/sex discrimination). As long as another restaurant will serve me, I’m not being denied my Liberty. But for gov. to coerce that restaurant to serve me is a denial of it’s Liberty.
    Asking the right question is key. Therefore,
    ask not “Is this person/group being discriminated against?”.
    Ask rather “Is this person/group being denied their Liberty?”

  33. Comment by Michael on September 20, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    In truth, many, many colleges with Christian roots are smong those with least grasp of “the free exercise of religion.” Many insist that Christian groups admit to membership persons of another religion or even outright hostility to Christianity.

  34. Comment by William on September 24, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Duke should extend this non discrimination policy to the athletic department. Anybody who wants to play in a Duke basketball game — a man, a woman, or otherwise — should be allowed to suit up and given playing time, for example.

  35. Comment by David Gingrich on September 21, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Duke’s shift away from Christ is a leading reason for the problems the UMC is having.

  36. Comment by Skipper on September 22, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    It’s a shame Duke has drifted so far away.

  37. Comment by Joe Sherrill on September 23, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    At least their mascot represents them appropriately.

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