COUNTERPOINT: I know it’s the law, but Young Life still shouldn’t be at RB

Lauren Kreiss

RB students attend a Young Life meeting. While the club is immensely popular, does it fit with RB's values?

Kelly Kramer, A&E Manager

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I’d like to begin by saying that I have no problem with Young Life, and I do not believe the club is at fault for anything stated in this story. I just find it interesting that a religious club is allowed to be so promoted within a public school, and I felt the issue should be explored.

When I first started this story, my feelings towards Young Life were not exactly positive. I felt confused that a group that is widely advertised as a Christian and accepting group could have views that were so discriminatory. Along with that confusion, I felt as though such a group doesn’t exactly have a place in a public school. After much research and many interviews, I found that, while my opinions haven’t really changed, Young Life is, in fact protected by law that allows it to operate in public schools.

According to the Equal Access Act of 1984, religious student organizations must receive equal treatment and use of facilities as any other student organization. This act protects any student driven religious group, so long as non-student leaders of the group do not attend or direct meetings held on school property.

Regardless of the law, my biggest problem with Young Life is that in their mission statement states: “We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who… practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of God’s grace and mercy… We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”

As a non-RB activity operating outside of a public school setting, that is their way of life and opinion to not want homosexuals to serve as staff.  At the same time, it feels like they should be separated from a public school.

However, in discussion with Assistant Principal John Passarella, he said, “You have to be careful when denying a group their civil rights.”

So, as it turns out, even though there is some level of discrimination within Young Life, it’s still a club that is granted equal access to all of RB’s facilities, given that the space isn’t already in use for a club that is directly related to RB.

Even though the Equal Access Law states that they should have equal representation, I just don’t think it’s right.

RB is supposed to be a school of acceptance. Groups funded by the school include the Association of Students for Tolerance and the Gay Straight Alliance, which are clearly groups that aim to treat everyone equally regardless of differences. Young Life is clearly not a club that supports those same values, at least if you read their mission statement. I’m not saying that Young Life shouldn’t exist or shouldn’t be able to use the school’s facilities (provided they pay for it), but I’m saying it shouldn’t be promoted as much as it is. I understand the good points of the club: the students involved love it, they have a place to go to have fun with their friends, they do service projects, and they also have the Christian aspect of it, if that is the religion they wish to practice.  

But the fact that this club’s statement is based on discrimination proves to me that there is really no place for it in a public school. I feel as though the Equal Access Act should only go so far. If it was up to me, I’d change the act. And I wouldn’t just change it to exclude Young Life. I don’t think that if a Jewish group wanted to make multiple announcements per week that should be allowed either. This act also would protect a Neo-Nazi group assembling and conducting meetings at RB. I just think if church and state are to be separate, they should really be separate.

Again, my point is not to condemn Young Life. I think it’s great for the people involved. And even though there are laws and acts that protect the rights of a religious club, it seems as though Young Life is growing so fast and taking over life at RB. I feel like the club may be going down a path that will become so prominent within public schools that something may have to be done in the future.


20 Responses to “COUNTERPOINT: I know it’s the law, but Young Life still shouldn’t be at RB”

  1. matt sagan on January 22nd, 2012 9:05 pm

    I DISL IKE the article topic all together. Why would you say such things about young life I go to it an dI love it I haev made heck lot more freidns there who go to Rb.
    Just cause the the club doesn’t meet on RB gorund doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be accepted.
    I bet you thta if you asked a number of people who go to younglife and go to Rb they will tell you the same answer “Keep young life!!!!!”

    And besides young life is a nationla and worldwide organization.


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  2. Joe Random on January 23rd, 2012 1:12 pm

    to the commenter above, how does that make any difference? The fact that YL is a national organization makes their actions no different than if this was just some local group. Just because you enjoy it doesn’t mean they aren’t discriminating against gays. Just because you made friends through that organization doesn’t mean they aren’t doing wrong, pal. the point I’m trying to make is, just because your experience with YL has been a good one, doesn’t make kelly’s facts and opinions irrelevant.

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  3. Susan on January 23rd, 2012 4:57 pm

    It’s not affiliated with RB… who go to RB go to it. there’s a difference. Get your facts straight.

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  4. dmancoff on January 23rd, 2012 10:35 pm

    We agree that Young Life is not an RB-affiliated activity and we’re sorry if the article suggested otherwise. Young Life is unaffiliated with RB but is promoted at RB. -D. Mancoff

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  5. Louis Robling on January 24th, 2012 11:29 am

    First off I would like to say thank you for finally posting s story with an opposing view of young life. I was wondering if it was ever going to come.

    As someone who used to attend YL until a falling out, I still believe that YL has every right to be promoted at RB. The supreme court has ruled that religious organizations must be given equal treatment by the public schools. Now the way I read this is that as long as the activities aren’t circumventing other school sponsored activities held at RB and all students can join then it has the right to be promoted at RB. If YL was not allowing people to join based on sexual preference then it would not have the right to be promoted at public schools.

    Second, the issue that you have brought up is that persons who are gay or lesbian are not allowed to WORK on YL staff. This is not just the RB YL policy, it is a corporate policy and does not directly affect those who can and can not join.

    Lastly the fact that YL is growing at RB is in no way a bad thing and definitely will not stand as a grounds for removal from a public school setting. All opinions aside, the more people who are simply introduced to religion at a comfortable level, the better. I personally was at the first YL meeting 5 years ago and there were maybe 20 kids there. Now that it can attract over 120 people every week is not only shocking but impressive. Just because people are finding a club where ALL walks of life feel accepted, does not mean that it should be examined or scrutinized. As long as YL continues to allow all people to join, it deserves the right to use the RB facilities.

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  6. Alucard on January 24th, 2012 2:24 pm

    There are so many things wrong with the statements here. I’m sure KKK members love all the friends they make at the annual rallies too, but those are acceptable for a public school either.

    I understand that “Young Life” does good for the community, but at what cost? Should organizations that do good for the most part, but exclude people that might want to help based on sexual preference, Staff or otherwise, even exist? If they are able to exist, they should be taken elsewhere.

    The promotion of such a group that uses hateful religious views just does not make sense in a public school. I think everyone in “Young Life” should stop living their lives by a book written thousands of years ago and be a truly accepting group that helps the community. This sense of false knighthood makes me sick.

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  7. Evan West on January 24th, 2012 6:20 pm

    This is just pure nit-picking and certainly just a miniscule, frivolous way to fire people up. You say that you are not against the club? Fine. But you seem to have gone very far to find something to have an issue with. You want to talk about people not being treated equally? Then let’s discuss the massive amounts of people who relentlessly ridicule those who attend Young Life while, I am very hard pressed to collectively find frequent Young Life members discriminate against anyone for their sexual orientation, race, or religious beliefs. Homosexuals not being able to hold staff positions is a fundamental rule of the organization, not a reflection of the behavior of the group members or area staff. Whether or not you agree with the rule is your opinion. However accusing the organization and individuals involved of being a reflection of that rule is a very flawed assertion. This does not make our Christian fate “hateful” or “discriminatory.” The Equal Access Act of 1984 allows Young life to be announced. If you have a problem with that, than you have the ability to write a letter to your local congressman Dan Lipinski about such disapproval. If you have a problem, do something about it. That is your opportunity to take action. If you do not wish to do so, then i suggest you stop ranting in a high school newspaper forum that does nothing for your cause. Also, even if the announcements were not made, Young Life would still exist, along with your problems with it. Also, most of RB does not attend Young Life. It is not “taking over life at RB.” If you attended you would obviously know this. See things through the highs and lows before you make such accusations. Young Life IS a good thing. Look, I’m not trying to cause problems….just trying to keep it real…..

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  8. Bridget Brewer on January 25th, 2012 4:18 pm

    I found this information at

    Our Mission
    Introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith.

    Curious as to where you found what you labeled the “mission statement”. My assumption is the sexual conduct write up, but I can’t seem to find it on the website to confirm that idea.

    Anyways, I thought this was a pretty cool article, hopefully written with good intention. What I really would like to share in case there is any confusion though, is that Young Life doesn’t stop homosexuals from “joining” younglife. We really do make an effort to open the doors to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. For this reason, I would say it does fit in with the school. Every student truly is welcome to come. period.

    As the website states, the mission is to introduce “adolescents to Jesus Christ and [help] them grow in their faith.” never does it say that introduction is only for heterosexuals. I know you know all of this Kelly (you did your research.) I just fear that this article can be confused and one can leave thinking that he isn’t welcome at a YL club or campaigners if he is gay.

    For an organization dedicated to introducing people to Jesus and following the word of God, I think it is safe to say they would want their leaders, the faces of YL, to follow those ideals. For example, if someone was going around having sex with random people, they would not be fit to lead because their lifestyle is an innacurate representation of what YL would like adolescents to be lead to. Would you call that discrimination? perhaps you would. I just think it’s an attempt to lead adolescents in the best way possible.. by ensuring that the leaders are walking with Christ and following the Word of God in the same way they hope for teens to.

    Apologies if any of that was redundant, I couldn’t decide the best way to communicate what I wanted to share. 🙂

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  9. Christien West on January 25th, 2012 10:39 pm

    I am an avid believer in the United States Constitution. It captures the true essence of freedom and tolerance. This cherished document gives us the rights we all experience on a daily basis. With that being said, even though Young Life has changed the way in which I daily live my life, I am not upset someone is speaking out against it.

    Essentially, what you are saying is Young Life should not be at RB because you think there the law is unjust. I know the area between church and state is fuzzy. However when it comes to religion in a school, the school can not support the organization. The Constitution clearly states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The school does not support Young Life, financially or via public relations. If the students want to support it, they have an unalienable constitutional right to do so.

    Also, one other issue I have is with one of your citations. You falsely stated Young Life’s mission statement. Their TRUE statement, word for word, is

    “Introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith. We accomplish our mission by …
    Praying for young people.
    Going where kids are.
    Building personal relationships with them.
    Winning the right to be heard.
    Providing experiences that are fun, adventurous and life-changing.
    Sharing our lives and the Good News of Jesus Christ with adolescents.
    Inviting them to personally respond to this Good News.
    Loving them regardless of their response.
    Nurturing kids so they might grow in their love for Christ and the knowledge of God’s Word and become people who can share their faith with others.
    Helping young people develop the skills, assets and attitudes to reach their full God-given potential.
    Encouraging kids to live connected to the Body of Christ by being an active member of a local congregation.
    Working with a team of like-minded individuals — volunteer leaders, committee members, donors and staff.”

    It says nothing about homosexuals? Furthermore I would like to state that Christians don’t condemn homosexuals. Personally, one of my closest friends at college is gay.

    Labeling Young Life as an “intolerant” organization makes absolutely no logical sense. Sure some individuals involved may not be well-rounded, accepting individuals, however Christianity is about growth. At one point I was one of these kids, however God changed my perspective, I learned to love people for who they are, no matter what. Many organizations at RB contain individuals who do not understand what it means to be accepting or compassionate. So to say Young Life should be banned, based on the views of a few individuals means you have to ban every organization at RB which contains such individuals. People are not perfect, we all, at some point have been intolerant, had a laugh at someone else’s expense, or treated someone with disrespect. This is not what Young Life or Christians in general, stand for. It’s about love, acceptance, and growth.

    It just saddens me whenever people get the wrong view about Young Life. It is a wonderful organization.

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  10. Louis Robling on January 26th, 2012 12:00 am

    The fact that 9 people can agree with the comparison of YL, a religious youth organization, to the KKK, a hate filled discriminatory organization is sad. The KKK is solely responsible for countless numbers of deaths to african americans and other minorities spread over 5+ decades. YL on the other hand does not discriminate against any person regardless of sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other reason.

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  11. dmancoff on January 26th, 2012 7:01 am

    Kelly Kramer left the Clarion staff at the semester switch. Her article was completed at the tail end of the first semester, though not published until our return from break. However, in an attempt to attribute her quote, I did encounter a correction. The quote attributed to the Young Life mission statement comes rather from the organization’s “Statement of Faith.”

    That document can be found here:

    It also appears in information provided to Young Life staff and volunteers here:

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  12. Jordan Krikie on January 26th, 2012 8:12 am

    Kelly quoted parts from Young Life’s handbook saying they actually do discriminate based on sexual orientation. I also read the section Sexual Misconduct (which I found very offensive that homosexuality was referred to as misconduct but whatever) and it goes farther than even Kelly mentioned in her story. I suggest members of YL read the handbook and learn the policies of their own club.

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  13. Jordan Krikie on January 26th, 2012 9:18 am

    Kelly quoted from the handbook that Young Life actually does discriminate based on sexual orientation. I read the Sexual Misconduct section myself (I found it offensive that homosexuality was referred to as misconduct but whatever) and it goes even further than Kelly mentions. I think it would be worth their time for Young Life members to read their own policies.

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  14. Sean DeMuro on January 26th, 2012 12:22 pm

    I feel a lot of people have good points on the subject but when the same students and teachers who tell me Younglife hates homosexuals and exclude people are the ones who hate younglife, tell other people to hate younglife and make fun of them, their message doesn’t come across intact.

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  15. Anon on January 26th, 2012 7:00 pm

    Is Young Life a cult? No. Is Young Life totally accepting like they say they are? No. I understand that Young Life has many good qualities, and I don’t hold anything against its members. However, clubs at RB, even if they are only promoted, should not exclude anyone. That includes whatever their sexual orientation may be. In the YL handbook, it says under Sexual Misconduct that “Homosexual lifestyle and practice…YL believes that such activities are clearly not in accord with God’s creation processes.” And that “Young Life volunteers and staff shall not engage in sexual misconduct.” Which includes homosexuality. I accept that everyone has a right to practice their religion or lack thereof, but RB is not the place for it, especially when it discriminates.

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  16. Trent Baer on February 1st, 2012 1:42 pm

    Nice opinion piece Kelly. While we may disagree on the issue, you presented your argument very well. Keep it up.

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  17. Leon Trotsky on February 1st, 2012 1:54 pm

    Young Life is an option. “Young Atheists” is an option too. Neither should be forced on students, faculty or families. One of the greatest abilities everyone has is the right to choose based on personal study and reflection. So the real threat comes from those who do not want us to be free to choose but to knuckle under.

    We must be on guard because many beguiling reasons are given by those who want to take away our freedom to choose. Do not give in to “what everyone is doing.” Be vocal, be direct, be courageous in defending everyone’s right to choose. Even if you disagree with their choice.


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  18. Imma Random on February 3rd, 2012 12:03 pm

    Young Life does not discriminate against gays. It says in the mission statement that they are ACCEPTING of anyone who wants to join. Gays can be involved in Young Life, they just can’t become leaders. I have a GAY friend who did work crew, and it was allowed. So calm down about them not accepting gays because heads up: they do.

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  19. Blake O'Day on February 15th, 2012 11:56 am

    This article was very well written and does a great job at tip toeing the fine line of morals and ethics at RB. I don’t think any religion affliated group should be allowed to operate within a public school but since it’s protected by law, that’s just the way it is. Besides the shirts and annoucements, YL isn’t really “in your face” and I’d like to give them credit for not pushing their beliefs on the student body.

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  20. Lorri Floros on February 16th, 2012 12:18 pm

    It is curious to me that YL, “although accepting of homosexuality, cannot allow persons with that sexual orientation to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.” I assume that rule is because the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord. The Bible I believe says that a lying tongue (Pro. 6:17; 12:22), a proud look (Pro. 6:16-17), robbery (Ezek. 18: 6-13), a wicked scheming heart (Pro. 6:18), eating unclean things – that’s anything from a pig, among many other animals (Isa. 66:17), lying with a menstruous woman (Ezek. 18: 6-13) are all abominations to the Lord and the list goes on and on. So are all YL leaders free of all abominable sins or just certain ones? How do they choose which “sins” are to be unjudged? Who gives them the right to choose?
    Perhaps we need to take our cues as to what to do from Jesus. Not only did Jesus dine with those “guilty of abominable sins” he celebrated with them! It was customary to sit during ordinary meals and recline during festive meals. Jesus chose to recline with impure people as a symbol of mutual acceptance and as a response to the establishment.
    Jesus challenged the Jewish purity system by being close friends with the impure (“sinner”) and even going as far to say that an impure person (like a Samaritan) can be a closer imitation of God’s central quality (compassion) than even the Pharisees, the purest (and therefore most righteous) people in the land. Luke 10:29-37
    Just some thoughts to think about as we climb on to our high horses…

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COUNTERPOINT: I know it’s the law, but Young Life still shouldn’t be at RB