SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 15, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Shawnee, Oklahoma) — Yesterday, 5 Equality Riders were arrested for attempting to worship at chapel with students from Oklahoma Baptist University. The Soulforce Equality Ride is a nationwide journey of 50 young adults visiting conservative Christian colleges to challenge policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The arrests were made when all 26 of the East Bus Equality Riders and 1 community member sought to enter onto campus and were turned away with a warning of trespassing. Five of the Equality Riders, truly determined to worship with students, were arrested by the Shawnee Police. The 5 arrested were Katie Higgins, 23; Rachel Loskill, 21; Robin Reynolds, 23; Curtis Peterson, 21; and Angel Collie, 24.
The bus holding 25 diverse young adults, including former students of conservative Christian colleges, straight allies and gay evangelical Christians, traveled to Shawnee to visit OBU and bring a message of inclusion and academic freedom to students. This is the second time the Equality Ride has visited OBU. The first time came in 2006 when the administration allowed Equality Riders to remain in a single room, which limited dialogue with students.
Since the visit by the inaugural Equality Ride, the school’s policy has become more extreme and explicit – it now bans advocacy and support for LGBT students by straight allies as well as openly gay and transgender students.
When the Equality Riders arrived on Thursday they were warned by campus security that any entrance onto campus would result in arrest. Relentless in their mission to talk with students about the university’s discrimination against LGBT students, 5 of the Equality Riders chose to go onto campus anyway in the hopes of initiating conversation.
"Many OBU students are disappointed with the administration’s decision to deny this opportunity for dialogue. Last year, important steps were taken in expanding the minds of students on the issue of faith, gender, and sexuality. This year, however, administration has decided to remove inclusive perspectives from the discussion, exemplifying the injustice that has brought the Equality Ride here," said Co-Director Jarrett Lucas.
In addition to the harsher policy, a student’s request to include LGBT students in the university’s anti-discrimination policy was rejected this past year. The rejection came in spite of the university’s previous promise to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups.
The Equality Ride plans to return to OBU’s campus today in hopes of continuing conversations with students just outside of campus grounds. The group will also be presenting a tapestry of affirming statements and biblical verses.
The Equality Ride East Bus was in Springfield, MO earlier this week, where two straight allies were arrested for attempting to enter onto Central Bible College’s campus. After its stop in Shawnee, OK the Equality Ride plans to visit Baylor University in Waco, TX where Equality Riders are being allowed onto campus as guests of students.
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.