Oral Roberts University Sends Mixed Message to Gays: 蔘�e Love You All; Do Not Come Onto Our Campus蔘

For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard Lindsay, 646-258-7193

(Tulsa, OK) – The frigid air in Oklahoma was symbolic of the welcome Oral Roberts University extended to the Soulforce Equality Riders today, after repeated refusals for dialogue with ORU officials resulted in more than 25 police officers waiting at the entrance of the school. Before the Riders were even allowed off the bus, a member of the Oral Roberts police force and an officer from the Tulsa Police Department entered the bus to talk with them. Summing up the school’s response to the Ride and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, the Oral Roberts University officer told the Riders, "We love you all; do not come onto our campus."

Speaking to media before leading the group to trespass onto campus, Equality Ride co-director Jacob Reitan said, "Colleges teach history, it is time for them to start reflecting on what history has done to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The time for this conversation has come. We have a group of people who care enough to at least try, and Oral Roberts does not want to welcome them."

The Riders stood off campus hoping that the university administration would have a change of heart; but when the time came to attempt to have a conversation, their hopes were met with handcuffs. While the arrests were taking place, fellow Riders waited across the street holding portraits of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who committed suicide or were killed because of religious messages that portrayed them as sick and sinful.

In all, eight individuals were arrested when they attempted to gain entrance to the campus — 6 Equality Riders and 2 community members. Moving across police lines toward the school’s massive sculpture of praying hands, they carried Bibles and quoted scripture passages that reflected why they felt called to talk with students at Oral Roberts about ending the school’s policy of religion-based discrimination against LGBT people.

Speaking about why she felt motivated to be arrested, Jessie Sullivan said, "I had seriously considered going to Oral Roberts for college; but when I came to campus to visit I did not feel welcome. It was that unease that made me feel as if I should make a statement about why colleges should be welcoming to everyone, because we are all one in Christ. God loves us wholly for who we are."

Several Oral Roberts students have contacted Riders by email and phone to try to set up meetings and dialogue off campus. ORU students have stated that the university has blocked the Soulforce web site from web browsers of resident students. Nathan Bengtson, one of the Riders in charge of the Oral Roberts University stop, has vowed to find ways to reach out to students regardless of the administration’s tactics. "We’ve met obstacles at every school we’ve visited so far; and in every instance we have found ways to dialogue with students. It is time for this issue to be discussed."

For more information on the Equality Ride visit www.equalityride.com/media.

Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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