Ten Equality Riders Arrested at Bethany Lutheran College

National Tour of Gay and Straight Youth to End Religion-Based Discrimination on Christian Campuses

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com

(Mankato, Minnesota) — Fifty-two Equality Riders, representing diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and faith backgrounds, were met by campus security and Mankato police when they walked onto Bethany Lutheran College campus seeking dialogue with students, faculty, and administrators to address the school’s anti-gay policy. Over twenty supportive community members, including students from Minnesota State University, Mankato, joined the Riders in this peaceful action. Crowds of students gathered to watch as ten Equality Riders were arrested, while the remaining Riders, community members, and MSU students lined the curb and quietly sang a benediction: "Go now in peace; may the love of God surround you everywhere you go."

Prior to arrest, the Equality Riders spent two-and-a-half hours in silent vigil outside the campus gates. Bethany Lutheran students stopped by to shake hands, thank the Riders for being there, and ask questions. "I support what you are doing 100%," said one Bethany Lutheran senior. An MSU student reiterated that support and added that, coming from a school that welcomed him as a gay man, he felt that it was especially important to stand in solidarity with those who were not welcomed in the same way.

Following the arrest, as many as fifty Bethany Lutheran students joined the Riders for conversations lasting up to two hours.

The Equality Ride visit to Bethany Lutheran College marks the end of a two-month journey across the United States. The eastbound and westbound buses came together for the first and only time to pose the question to Bethany Lutheran: "Will you choose hospitality or rejection?" Riders held photographs from schools that they had visited across the United States, depicting welcoming receptions in which Riders and students worked toward reconciliation, and unwelcoming receptions, many of them ending in arrest.

Despite months spent reaching out to Bethany Lutheran College and the evident interest of students, campus administrators chose the path of rejection in an effort to silence the conversation about faith and identity. The necessity of this conversation was apparent as Bethany Lutheran students flocked to the outskirts of campus to meet with Equality Riders, and later joined Riders and community members for presentations and dialogue at MSU and First Congregational Church UCC, where pastors representing five different denominations voiced their support for the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride.

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.