Civil Rights Heroes From the ’60s to ask Church Leaders to End Their "Holy War" Against Sexual Minorities

Historic Press Conference Set for Tuesday May 9, 7-9PM
Cleveland State University Auditorium, 2121 Euclid, Cleveland, Ohio


Nonviolent Protest Scheduled for Wednesday May 10, 7-9AM
Cleveland Convention Center, Mall B

CLEVELAND, Ohio (May 3, 2000) – Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi; Dr. Martin Luther King’s eldest daughter, Yolanda King; and notable civil rights leaders of the ’50s and ’60s will announce their opposition to the war against homosexuals being waged by the United Methodist Church and other Protestant and Catholic denominations at an historic press conference, Tuesday May 9 at 7PM in the Cleveland State University Auditorium, 2121 Euclid Ave.

"The United Methodist Church has a history of social concern," explains Dr. Mel White, Co-Founder of Soulforce, the sponsoring organization, "and yet they begin this Conference in Cleveland just like most Christian denominations with anti-homosexual policies in place that lead to discrimination, suffering, and even death. We’ve waited patiently for more than three decades for truth to prevail. It’s time to take a more powerful stand against injustice and our heroes and sheroes from the past are showing us the nonviolent way."

Civil rights leaders speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, May 9, and leading the civil disobedience on May 10, include the Rev. Dr. James Lawson, a United Methodist pastor and a close friend and co-worker of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; the Rev. Dr. Robert Graetz, the Lutheran pastor whose home was bombed because he was the only white minister who stood with King during the Montgomery bus boycott; and Congressman John Lewis, the young black activist wounded on the March to Selma. Dr. Rodney Powell and Dr. Gloria Johnson-Powell, leaders of the nonviolent student movement of the ’50s and ’60s, will also speak at the Tuesday night press conference and face arrest at the Wednesday morning protest.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis, and Yolanda King, Dr. King’s eldest daughter, will also be present to address the media on behalf of equal rights for sexual minorities and to launch Wednesday’s civil disobedience.

The May 10 civil disobedience will coincide with the appearance of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other heads of denominations with anti-homosexual policies in place. "We are not in Cleveland to protest the presence of these Christian leaders," White explains. "They are our sisters and brothers. We are marching on the Convention Center to protest their policies against God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered children and to help them understand the tragic consequences of those policies."

Press do not need accreditation to be seated at the Tuesday, May 9, 7-9PM, Press Conference and Training in Nonviolence at the Cleveland State University Auditorium, 2121 Euclid. The Civil Rights leaders will be available for interviews and photo ops on Wednesday morning May 10, 7-9AM at Cleveland Convention Center Mall B before and during the civil disobedience and arrest.

Soulforce is a coalition of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual people of faith who are dedicated to bringing about justice for sexual minorities. Founded in 1998, Soulforce teaches and applies the nonviolent principles of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. The historic meeting of Soulforce with Jerry Falwell in October, 1999, was widely covered by the nation’s media.

Media contacts:

The Rev. Dr. Mel White, Soulforce Co-Founder
(949) 933-3592 [cell]
(216) 861-0001 (May 1-12, in Cleveland)
Diana G. Westbrook, Media Coordinator
(804) 837-1568 [cell] (May 5-12 only, in Cleveland)