The Clarion-Ledger, "Gay rights group plans MC protest"

Six arrested on Florida University campus in gay rights protest

Trespassing will bring police, college says

Saturday, October 18, 2008
By Ruth Ingram, Clinton News

Jackson, MS—A gay rights group threatens to trespass this weekend on Mississippi College’s campus to deliver a message of "inclusion" for all students, risking arrests and fines.

But the president of the college’s Student Government Association says another visit to the Christian campus by Soulforce is nothing more than a bid for publicity.

The national gay rights organization that last year protested at MC is returning Sunday and Monday. Likely, protesters will do what they did when they lined up on campus March 22, 2007: They will knowingly step onto MC property and be arrested for trespassing.

The Soulforce Q Equality Ride bus tour will come to the private Baptist college at 8 p.m. Sunday for a candlelight vigil on College Street across from the Aven Arts Building. A second vigil is Monday at 9 a.m. on College Street.

At 1 p.m. Monday, Soulforce officials say, Equality Ride members will attempt "to go on campus."

College administrators forbade Equality Ride protesters from setting foot on college property in 2007. When four crossed onto the area across from Aven, they were arrested by Clinton police and charged with misdemeanor trespassing. A fifth was later arrested and charged; all were released after each paid a $250 fine.

MC administrators are saying little about the visit.

"If Soulforce chooses to trespass, we will call the Clinton Police Department," said public relations director Tracey Harrison. Campus security will be present during the vigils and the Monday afternoon event, she said.

In 2007, the Clinton Police Department stationed its SWAT van across from the administration building and had a strong police presence.

This year, Harrison said, the college will ask for Clinton police support "only if necessary."

The college learned of the visit in an Aug. 1 letter from Soulforce staff to MC President Lee Royce, Harrison said.

The visit is one of 15 stops at private Christian colleges on the Equality Ride’s 2008 route, which began Oct. 1 at private Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and ends Nov. 13 at Simmons College in Louisville, Ky.

The group "will bring a message of safety and inclusion to Mississippi College," Soulforce said in a news release.

Clinton resident Harley McAlexander, president of MC’s Student Government Association, said the second visit by Soulforce isn’t creating much conversation among students.

"I wish there was a way that this (visit) could be mutually beneficial to both of us, but it’s unfortunate that they (Soulforce) seem to be more into getting publicity."

Mississippi College’s student handbook says extramarital and premarital sex and homosexual behavior are not tolerated on campus.

It says nothing about banning homosexuals from enrollment.

Harrison said members of Soulforce do not enjoy all of the liberties they would on a public university campus. "The (U.S.) Constitution requires government to respect the rights of free speech," she said. "MC is not a public institution.

"MC does not allow activists on campus who do not advance our commitment to the cause of Christ."

The original article is available on the Clarion-Ledger website:
http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20081018/NEWS/810180349/1001/news

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