Equality Riders Find Supportive Community at Bethel University

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

(St. Paul, MN) – Bethel University warmly welcomed the Soulforce Equality Ride to its campus Tuesday. The day began with a meeting between Equality Ride leaders and school administrators and informal dialogue with students. Bethel allowed riders to present in classrooms to continue conversations about Bethel’s code of conduct, which aligns homosexual behavior with evil thoughts and greed as conduct which should be avoided by Bethel students.

"We are excited to be welcomed on the Bethel College campus and to be given the opportunities to present and discuss issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students here. This is truly a campus where academic freedom is alive and well," said Haven Herrin, co-director of the Equality Ride.

Several students introduced themselves to Riders as straight allies and many were wearing rainbow ribbons and t-shirts in support of the Equality Ride visit to the school.

"Despite the quality of the dialogue here, it can be possible to be a place of open dialogue and still not be a safe place for LGBT students," Herrin continued. "As long as Bethel College still enforces a discriminatory policy towards LGBT individuals this is an unsafe environment."

As the day concluded, Bethel opened its largest venue to the Riders for a formal panel discussion between three representatives from the Soulforce Equality Ride and three representatives from the Bethel community. More than 1000 students attended the discussion in the University’s Great Hall.

At the conclusion of the forum Riders called for straight ally students who supported the goals of the Ride to stand and be recognized in the forum discussion. The dozens of students who stood demonstrated the diversity of opinion within the Bethel community.

"At the end of the day we have to walk away from Bethel encouraged by our discussions here," said Jessie Sullivan, Equality Rider and co-organizer for the stop at Bethel. "For the first time on our journey we’ve seen public support from straight ally students. Let’s hope these students can see this day as the foundation for changing the school’s policy and building support for LGBT students on campus."

For more on the Equality Ride stop at Bethel University, see: www.equalityride.com/bethel

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.