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Young Life flourishes on college campuses despite pushback over gay volunteer ban and sexual misconduct accusations

An Insider investigation has found 10 allegations of sexual misconduct against members, volunteers, and staffers at Young Life, a $500 million ministry that aims to connect children and young adults with Christianity.

These allegations have emerged amid the #dobetteryounglife movement, in which former Young Life members are sharing their experiences with the ministry, including claims that the group’s policies around LGBTQ staff members and volunteers are discriminatory and harmful.

According to internal documents reviewed by Insider, Young Life welcomes LGBTQ youth into the ministry. Queer adults, however, are not allowed to serve as volunteers or staff members, except for select cases in which they are “celibate.”

Are you a current or former Young Life staff member, volunteer, or student? Share your story with reporter Rachel Premack here or securely here.

In response, students at some universities have pushed against Young Life’s status on campus. Duke University’s student government voted unanimously in 2019 to decertify Young Life as an on official student group, while Gonzaga University’s Young Life chapter disbanded in 2020 in protest over the national policy banning gay leadership.

Young Life’s policies on sexual harassment also raised questions among attorneys contacted by Insider.

For example, Young Life’s sexual-conduct policy prohibits employees and volunteers from reporting misconduct to the police without executive approval. Pamela Moore, a partner at McCarter & English who works with employers on worker-relations policies, said that portion of Young Life’s policy would “generally be considered unlawful” under federal and state regulations, which give workers the right to report alleged violations of equal-employment laws to outside agencies.

A representative for Young Life defended the group’s policies, saying that “all Young Life staff and volunteers are mandatory reporters. Additionally, Young Life has an anonymous portal to report any misconduct as well as a 24/7 hotline for staff to report an incident of any kind. If a report, made via either of these channels, is criminal in nature, Young Life contacts local authorities directly.”

Despite the pushback, Young Life maintains campus ministries on more than 200 US colleges and universities.

Several of the former Young Life members who spoke to Insider came into contact with the organization while at college, including University of Michigan students Becca Wong and Maddie Malvitz.

“I don’t think that the harm that Young Life causes is justified by the Christians they produce,” Wong told Insider. She said Young Life removed her after she reported that a fellow Young Life volunteer had been accused of sexual assault by Malvitz in 2019. Wong has filed a complaint against Young Life with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging a “sexually hostile workplace” during her time as a volunteer.

Young Life declined to comment on claims from Malvitz and Wong, citing the EEOC investigation.

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