60 Lesbian, Gay, and Allied University Students from 12 Virginia Universities to Bring Plea for "Academic Freedom" and "Personal Safety" to Falwell’s Liberty University for Liberty’s Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transgender Students

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: April 21, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jake Reitan, Director of Youth Programs
952-212-8311 jake@soulforce.org
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(Lynchburg, VA) At 9 a.m. Monday morning, April 25, 2005, approximately 60 students from a dozen Virginia universities will arrive by bus at the entrance to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University determined to spend the day exchanging views about sexual orientation and gender identity with LU’s students, faculty and staff.

At 1:00 p.m., after eating lunch with Liberty Students, the Equality Riders will hold a press conference and then set off as a group to deliver books to Liberty’s library; letters from suffering students to Liberty’s Chaplain; information on a "Safe Place" program that guarantees lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students at least one person on campus where they can be heard without recrimination; and an Open Letter to Chancellor Falwell requesting academic freedom and personal safety for all students.

"Our Equality Ride to Dr. Falwell’s school takes place within 10 days of the 44th anniversary of the Freedom Rides launched May 4, 1961," explains Jake Reitan, the Director of Youth Programs for Soulforce, Inc. "Only this time we are riding for the rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers to a school where those rights are denied."

After interviews and emails with dozens of gay and lesbian students at Liberty, Reitan reports that Falwell’s students have "no access to the latest scientific, psychological, historical, or even biblical evidence about sexual orientation" and professors, students, and guest speakers at their compulsory chapels regularly "caricature and condemn homosexuals, insisting that God can change them through prayer, discipline, and even getting married. What’s worse," Mr. Reitan adds, "Liberty’s gay and lesbian students are forced to live closeted lives, always fearful that if found out they will be expelled with their transcripts locked and their tuition lost."

One of the letters Reitan will deliver reads in part: "I am currently a junior at Liberty University. I am also gay. No one knows. I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell anyone. I know if my family found out they would disown me…I don’t know what God thinks about me being gay. Why would he make me like this in the first place? I did not choose it. Regardless of what God thinks I know what everyone else thinks. They would think I’m evil if they knew. I’ve never even been with a guy. I really hope that someone could talk some sense into the school and Christians in general. I’m tired of being all alone. Please don’t use my name!"

"It’s terribly sad," says Mel White, Soulforce director "that Jerry’s confusion about a handful of Bible verses leads to so much suffering for so many students. I am so glad that these Equality Riders are planting truth on Liberty Mountain. It’s long overdue."

PRESS CONFERENCE AND DIRECT ACTION
1 PM, Monday, April 25, 2005
Main Entrance Liberty University, Corner University Blvd. and Eriksson Dr.
Lynchburg, VA.

For more information go to www.soulforce.org/liberty

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