USA Today, "Liberty to Allow Gay Group to Visit Campus"

Liberty To Allow Gay Group To Visit Campus

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
By Ashley Gipson, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — The Soulforce 2008 Equality Ride, a nationwide bus tour that promotes acceptance for gays and lesbians on Christian college campuses, will start this year’s tour with a Wednesday visit to Liberty University — the first time the group will be allowed on campus.

In 2006, more than 20 Equality Ride activists were arrested for attempting to enter Liberty’s campus to donate gay-affirming Christian books to the library.

This year’s visit will mark the group’s first visit to Liberty since Jerry Falwell Jr. assumed leadership after the death of his father. Riders say they hope the campus’ zeal for politics will allow open conversation about "faith and fairness," they said.

"We are in contact with Liberty students who have been waiting for the Equality Ride to return," said Katie Higgins, Equality Ride’s co-director.

Liberty officials have indicated that they will not plan opportunities for dialogue, but they will not ban the Equality Riders from speaking with students and donating materials to the university, according to a statement released by Soulforce.

"If the administration would rather not talk about safety and quality of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, the students themselves are another story," Soulforce said.

This year’s tour will target more seminaries than earlier campaigns. The Equality Riders will host forums, participate in panel discussions, and engage in community service opportunities to reach out to the students.

"We bring hope to students who fear expulsion or other sanctions just for being themselves," said Higgins. "We tell them God loves them just as they are, and we speak up for a community where everyone can learn without fear."

Johnnie Moore, Liberty’s spiritual programs director, declined to comment about the Equality Riders coming to campus.

The original article is available on the USA Today website