Dialog Begins on Ending Abilene Christians Discriminatory Policy

For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard Lindsay, Press Liaison
Cell: 646-258-7193 Email: richard@equalityride.com

(Abilene, TX) – Equality Riders completed a full day of presentations, discussions and worship with students at Abilene Christian University today, the first school to allow the Riders full access to campus. The school, affiliated with the Church of Christ, has about 4000 undergraduate and 800 graduate students studying in a range of liberal arts and professional programs.

"I knew this was going to be a different stop when they asked me to put on a name tag," said Jacob Reitan, co-director of the Equality Ride. "The schools we have visited so far have not given us that kind of institutional welcome."

Reitan continued, "They have allowed us to present in small classes and big auditoriums, fed us and let us worship with them. We are truly grateful for the dialogue we have had here with students, faculty and administration."

Events included Soulforce presentations on the history of religion-based violence, a theological conversation with students in training for ministry with the School of Theological Studies, a panel discussion on portrayals of sexuality in the media (with Brokeback Mountain as the starting point) and numerous informal conversations at receptions and meals held with students and faculty throughout the campus.

Equality Riders worshipped at the University Church of Christ just off campus on Sunday night, taking communion, singing and praying with about 800 students. On Monday, Equality Riders joined students in Moody Coliseum for ACU’s daily chapel service. The services were conducted in the Church of Christ tradition of unaccompanied singing with the congregation joining in four-part harmony.

"The students were thrilled to be having this conversation," said Rebecca Solomon, Equality Rider and point person for the ACU stop. "For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students here it’s like their school has said, ‘Yes, you do exist.’"

Despite the warm greeting extended to Soulforce Equality Riders, Abeline Christian University continues to hold a student conduct policy forbidding "homosexual behavior," which has led to students being expelled from the school.

Reitan added, "The fact remains that students can still be kicked out of ACU because they are gay. As long as that can happen, this campus is not a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. There are still a lot of issues to talk about here. We hope our visit is only the beginning of this discussion."

The Equality Ride will stop next at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas on March 29th for a rally on ending discrimination towards LGBT students in the ROTC.

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

The Soulforce Equality Ride is a journey to change the heart and mind of America on the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. Following in the footsteps of the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s, the Equality Ride uses principles of non-violence to confront military and religious colleges and universities with policies banning enrollment of LGBT students. The Equality Riders reflect on the lessons of history, which have shown past religion-based discrimination against women, people of color, and religious minorities to be an unacceptable abuse of the sanctity of religion. At each of the 19 schools on the 51-day bus tour, the young adult ambassadors of the Equality Ride bring this simple message to students, faculty and administrators: Learn from history; end religion-based discrimination.

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