SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 4, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard Lindsay, 646-258-7193
Los Angeles, CA — The Soulforce Equality Ride visited two Los Angeles area Christian colleges today, California Baptist University and Biola University, to open dialogue with students about religion-based oppression against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. California Baptist University attempted to set severe limitations on the visit, restricting Riders from leaving the student center, handing out literature or making formal presentations. The 15 Riders visiting the university refused to abide by those limitations, standing in the center of campus during lunch hour, making presentations on violence and hate crimes against LGBT people, singing Christian songs and handing out booklets on "What the Bible Says — and Doesn’t Say — about Homosexuality."
"California Baptist University tried to keep our interactions with students to a minimum, and we did not agree to their restrictions," said Haven Herrin, Soulforce Equality Ride co-director. "This subject is too important to the lives of LGBT students on these campuses for us to be silenced."
As dozens of students on breaks between classes gathered around, listening to the Riders’ stories and asking questions about their faith journeys, Herrin and Equality Rider Tommy Atz negotiated intensely just off to the side with Cal Baptist administration to allow the conversations to continue. Campus security officers and local police circled the chaotic scene, ready to remove Equality Riders at the first signal from university officials.
In the end, the administration allowed the presentations and conversations to continue uninterrupted, until an LA winter rainstorm poured down on the students and the Equality Riders moved into the student center. The Equality Riders had lunch in the student center as conversations with large groups of students continued throughout the afternoon.
"We congratulate the administration of California Baptist for allowing our discussion on campus to continue," said Herrin. "They showed that dialogue is better than division, conversation is better than conflict. In the end, they let the best interest of the students win out." Members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force National Religious Leadership Roundtable attended the event, entering campus to speak with students from their diverse perspectives as LGBT faith leaders. Roundtable member and executive director of the United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches Rev. Dr. Cindi Love congratulated the young Equality Riders for their actions as she addressed press outside the campus.
"I don’t know how many of us would have had the courage to do what they’re doing at their age," Love said. "These brave young people are calling on members of the faith community to repent of their homophobia. They are truly changing lives on this campus today." Several miles away at Biola University, Riders were allowed onto campus for a full day of activities including a meeting with university administrators, classroom discussions and a chapel service. Although the dialogue was productive Biola University’s policy still prevents openly LGBT students from attending the school.
Equality Rider Alexey Bulokhov said, "I’m excited for Biola and the other campuses that have welcomed us because there is a chance here for spiritual and educational growth." Bulokhov added, "But I can’t forget that if I was a student here, I could be expelled just because I am gay."
The Equality Ride will be visiting Azusa Pacific University tomorrow for a full day of dialogue and presentations.
For more information on the Azusa Pacific stop, visit www.equalityride.com/apu
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.