Second Annual Soulforce Equality Ride Departs Today
Notre Dame – Pepperdine – BYU Among Stops
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 7, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Minneapolis, MN) — Today 50 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight young adults from diverse faiths will begin a mission to dialogue with tomorrow’s conservative leaders at Christian colleges across the nation.
Christian colleges are the fastest growing segment of higher education. At more than 200 Christian colleges in the United States, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students are silenced, forced out of school, or referred to harmful "ex-gay" therapies.
At 32 schools on 2 separate bus routes, the 2007 Equality Riders are determined to open a conversation about the devastating impacts of anti-gay policies. While some schools will welcome the Ride and the opportunity for dialogue, others have announced that they will arrest the Riders for trespassing. The threat of arrest will not deter these dedicated young people, who are determined to sharing their life-saving message about the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.
The Westbound bus will start off heading south to the University of Notre Dame, rated by students in a Princeton Review survey as the least hospitable school for gay and lesbian students. The administration at Notre Dame does not welcome the Ride, and arrest is a possibility for Riders, students, and community members who partake in direct action. However, the Riders are committed to meeting all campuses with peace and understanding, and many campuses will work to do the same: for example, Pepperdine University has invited the Riders to attend the Tolerance Museum with Pepperdine students. The Westbound bus will also make a return visit to Brigham Young University in Utah and make a debut visit to the BYU Idaho campus. The Equality Riders have been barred from both campuses and will be met by police upon arrival.
For a complete West bus itinerary, go to www.soulforce.org/article/901
The East bound bus will also start off heading south, traveling down to Baylor University, a Southern Baptist University in Waco, Texas. The Equality Ride will then travel east, stopping at such schools as Mississippi College, where students have been warned not to talk with Equality Riders and repeated attempts to communicate with administration have been rejected. Once on the East coast, the bus will turn north, visiting Bob Jones University, where interracial dating was still prohibited until 2000. The bus will continue north into Massachusetts where, despite the state’s pro-equality policies, Gordon College still has anti-gay policies on the books.
For a complete East bus itinerary, go to www.soulforce.org/article/789
Both buses return westward to reunite in Minneapolis for a final visit to Bethany Lutheran College.
"We come in pursuit of greater understanding," says Haven Herrin, Co-director of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of the national LGBT social justice group Soulforce. "Our goal is to foster a conversation about LGBT people and faith. While such conversations are often marked by politics and divisiveness, we bring open minds and hearts to academic settings, where we hope for a genuine exchange of ideas."
Herrin sees the diversity of this year’s cohort as another indicator of the project’s growth. "We come from a variety of experiences, a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. There are 5 straight allies on this year’s ride. There are 4 riders who identify as transgender. There are Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, and evangelical Christians. We’re all here to have a conversation with America’s next conservative religious generation about our personal lives and our personal relationships to the scriptures that the schools use to condemn us."
Eight of the 2007 riders are current or former students from schools on the 2006 ride, including Vince Cervantes and Vince Pancucci, a young couple who experienced Equality Ride 2006 as students at Azusa Pacific University. This evangelical Christian school welcomed the riders and hosted a public forum; more than 1,200 Azusa students listened, cried, and prayed for healing as Equality Riders shared their experiences of anti-gay violence. Inspired by that event, Cervantes and Pancucci have come out to the campus and become activists in their communities.
More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against LGBT students. In 2006, the inaugural Equality Ride traveled to 19 of those schools and held vigils, Bible studies, class discussions, and community forums. This year the Ride’s reach has nearly doubled.
Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. For more information go to www.soulforce.org or www.equalityride.com.