Riders Arrested at Central Baptist College in Arkansas

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 4, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
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(Conway, AR) — Yesterday, the Equality Ride, a youth-organized bus tour that travels to faith-based universities to create a dialogue about faith and fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, visited Central Baptist College. Upon their arrival, Riders were met by President Kimbrow, who informed Riders that they were not permitted onto campus and that they would be arrested for trespassing if they proceeded. Riders remained in vigil outside of CBC property as members of the community joined them in front of the school.

At 11:00, four Riders who hoped to speak to the students who were gathered on campus property were arrested for trespassing. The Riders were Lauren Parke of Seattle, WA; Alex Lundy of Syosset, NY; Katie Higgins of Minneapolis, MN; and Enzi Tanner of Minneapolis, MN. They were released this afternoon after posting bail.

"It is unfortunate that the school chose to deny us the opportunity to create dialogue on campus. We feel that the message of safety and inclusion for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender is too important to be limited by property lines," Alex Lundy, one of the arrested Riders and the organizer of the Central Baptist stop explains.

Following the arrests, students started approaching the Equality Riders to begin discussions. Numerous students remained in conversations with Riders about religion, gender, and sexuality for the remainder of the day. The Equality Riders were joined by students from nearby Hendrix College and by Arkansas residents Bob and Mary Lou Wallner, who are featured in the film For the Bible Tells Me So.

"We tried to get students to understand our shared humanity and realize the oppression and pain that students on their campus are facing because of the policies and beliefs of Central Baptist College. Through building relationships, we hope to create an environment of discussion that continues after the Equality Ride has left campus," says Katie Higgins, Equality Ride co-director.

The Equality Ride plans to return to campus on Friday, when the Baptist Missionionary Association will be meeting on campus, to have a vigil at Central Baptist in hopes of engaging some leadership in the organization about the damaging effects of religious oppression.

The Equality Ride bus is on the road through November 13, 2008. Future stops include:

Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
Nov. 10-11 Union University Jackson, TN
Nov. 13 Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, KY

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 through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.com.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Four gay-rights activists arrested at Baptist college"

Four gay-rights activists arrested at Baptist college

Tuesday, November 4, 2008
By Heather Hahn, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

CONWAY — Four gay-rights activists were arrested Monday afternoon immediately after they set foot on the Central Baptist College campus.

As Conway police handcuffed three women and one man, their fellow activists remained on the public sidewalk and sang the Christian camp song that begins, “Love, love, love, love, Christians, this is your call.” The 17 activists were all members of Soulforce Q, a group that seeks what it describes as equal treatment for gay students. The group visited the small Conway campus of about 500 students as part of its third annual Equality Ride, a national bus tour of conservative Christian colleges and universities.

“I think it’s unfortunate that they intentionally went to jail to make a point,” Terry Kimbrow, Central Baptist’s president, said after the arrests.

“What they are espousing is opposed to our beliefs. That’s why I denied having them on campus.” Kimbrow had asked the Conway police to help with security. When the Equality Riders arrived around noon, Kimbrow announced that they would be arrested if they stepped off the sidewalk and onto the campus. Conway police officers stood around the campus perimeter.

For about an hour, the riders stood on the sidewalk as instructed. Central Baptist students gathered on the lawn to watch. A few went to talk to the Equality Riders. Also standing with the Equality Riders were some students from nearby University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College who had come to show moral support.

After the arrests, some activists stayed on the sidewalk and talked to students who approached. Some students debated Bible passages on sexuality with the activists. Others questioned whether they needed to violate the law to get their message across.

“A lot of what we do is symbolic,” said Jarrett Lucas, co-director of the ride. “We do have a very real conversation to bring and we want that genuine exchange, that genuine dialogue. But at the same time, I think it’s really important to see that we face very real rejection from the followers of Christ.” Drew Hanna, a Central Baptist junior from Russellville, was talking to some of those arrested just before they stepped on campus.

“I feel blown off,” Hanna said. “I feel like they don’t really care that much. Because if they really cared, they would have tried to stay and talk to me. They say they want dialogue. But then they walk away to get arrested.” Central Baptist, which is affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas, was the first stop for the group in the state.

On Wednesday, the group plans to visit Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. The Southern Baptist-affiliated school, which has about 1, 470 students, also declined the Equality Riders’ request to come on campus. But with the expectation that the group will come anyway, university officials have designated an area on campus for the group to gather.

The three women arrested were Katie Higgins of Minneapolis; Alex Lundy of Syosset, N. Y.; and Lauren Parke of Seattle. Also arrested was Enzi Tanner of Minneapolis. They were all released about two and a half hours later after each paying $ 200 bond on charges of criminal trespass. Private donations help pay for the group’s fines.

Several Central Baptist students said the visit had no impact on their views. They still viewed homosexual acts as sinful.

Higgins, the co-director of the ride, said being arrested was worth it for the conversations it fostered with Central Baptist students. Three Central Baptist students joined the group for dinner that night at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant.

Sally Roberson, a sophomore from Searcy, said she expected the group to be disruptive, but she didn’t think they were.

“I didn’t want them on campus because I thought they were trying to push their beliefs on us,” Roberson said. “Then when they got here, they weren’t trying to push something. They were just trying to make us understand that God loves everybody, and we should accept them.”

The original article is available on The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette website:
http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/242518/

Equality Ride Connects Faith and Fairness at 2 Baptist Schools

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 28, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
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(Dallas, TX) — This week, the Soulforce Equality Ride brought unprecedented conversations about faith and fairness to two Baptist institutions: Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The quality of dialogue and exchange at each school demonstrates the diverse and changing nature of contemporary evangelical cultures.

The Equality Ride is a national bus tour to Christian colleges. The 18 to 26-year-old Equality Riders advocate safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

On Friday, October 24, the Soulforce Q Equality Riders arrived at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) as guests for a day of dialogue and discussion about faith and fairness. During a press conference preceding scheduled events, Dr. J. Blair Blackburn, Executive Vice President of DBU, said that although "DBU’s established beliefs may not coincide with the viewpoints of Soulforce on these issues, we understand anyone’s right to disagree and their desire for an opportunity to discuss." Katie Higgins, Equality Ride Co-director, explained the necessity of such conversations to ensure safety and fairness for all students.

Riders joined DBU faculty and administration for lunch and conversation before presentations to student leadership on campus.

"The students had such great ideas about how to get involved and be advocates for their gay and transgender peers. I hope that some of them will take those ideas and begin to form a support system for LGBT students on campus," said Equality Rider Alex Lundy.

Dialogue with student leaders continued as Riders were able to sit down with them and discuss their ideas and perceptions about faith, sexuality, and gender. Riders briefly shared their stories and then discussed what safe spaces look like for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and how students can facilitate these environments.

In a debriefing session with Equality Riders and DBU administrators, Riders explained their concerns about the DBU policy and discussed ways the campus could be safer. Administration shared their personal experiences and told Riders that the dialogue would continue.

"I think that the administration is genuinely interested in ensuring that gay and transgender students feel safe and fully accepted as members of the DBU community. Hopefully we can work with them in establishing fair and inclusive policies, which will help create a more welcoming campus climate," said Ride Co-director Jarrett Lucas.

In contrast, on Monday October 27th, Equality Riders traveled to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) for a limited and formal exchange of ideas.

Riders went onto campus at 2:00 PM for a meeting attended by a cross-section of individuals selected by the university, which included students, faculty, staff, and two of the university’s vice presidents. Soulforce Q Equality Riders showed a brief video from the SWBTS website in which President Paige Patterson apologizes to an African American alumnus for the oppression he faced as a student in 1943 when Southwestern was still racially segregated.

Following this video, Equality Riders shared two letters from gay SWBTS alumni detailing their experiences and the pain of being unable to live authentically on a campus that punishes gay and lesbian students. One writer revealed that "stress and suicidal thoughts forced [him] to drop out." In conclusion, the Riders reflected on the lack of condemnation from Jesus regarding gay and transgender people.

Equality Rider Danielle Cooper of Newark, New Jersey explains, "We had twenty five minutes and during that time we wanted the representatives from Southwestern Baptist to see our humanity. We wanted them to understand the pain and oppression lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face as a result of beliefs that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary holds. How long will we have to wait until President Patterson recognizes that the convention is wrong on the issue of gay and transgender individuals as well?"

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary began by introducing a community member who was not officially affiliated with Southwestern but was a "friend" of SWBTS. He told those present that he was once a gay man but was no longer considered himself a part of the community. He shared his belief that "Jesus Christ doesn’t speak tolerance. It’s a very narrow-minded Word." Following this personal story, a faculty member in the Ethics department rehearsed the Biblical passages that are often used to condemn gay and lesbian people.

Afterwards Riders and community supporters stood in silent vigil outside of the University for two hours. Some Equality Riders stood silently in a "glass closet" constructed as a visual reminder of LGBT students who are present on campus but unable to be heard. Zak Rittenhouse, one of the Riders who stood vigil within the "glass closet" reflected on his own experience: "While in the glass closet, I was reminded once again of what it was like to be silenced and to live in fear."

Riders remained in vigil until 5:30 PM along W. Seminary Drive to offer a visible symbol of hope to LGBT students as well as to demonstrate to the SWBTS community at large the pain of being gay or transgender on the campus.

Katie Higgins, Equality Ride co-director explains that, "Although the situations at Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were quite different, both were certainly important first steps in creating a dialogue about faith and fairness on these campuses. I hope that the schools will continue to challenge their perceptions and work towards becoming safer learning environments for all students."

The Equality Ride bus is on the road through November 13, 2008. Future stops include:

Oct. 29 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX
Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
Nov. 7 Central Baptist College Conway, AR
Nov. 10-11 Union University Jackson, TN
Nov. 13 Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, KY

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 through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.org.

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Two Equality Riders Arrested at Mississippi College

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 20, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
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(Clinton, MS) — At 1:00 pm today, two Equality Riders and two Mississippi College (MC) students walked onto that school’s campus to deliver a letter from an anonymous gay male student who is currently enrolled at MC. After the first warning from MC security, the two students stepped back. The Equality Riders continued onto campus and were arrested for trespassing.

Part of the letter read, "I honestly fear that when I do decide to let the public know who I really am, many of the organizations and activities with which I am involved will turn me away." The letter also described his experiences as a gay man on MC campus, where he has been the target of anti-gay speech.

"This letter is a clear indication that there are students on this campus who are struggling to have their voices heard. If the student were to openly express the content of this letter, he would be placing himself at risk." said Katie Higgins, Equality Ride Co-director.

The Equality Ride is a youth-organized bus tour to Christian colleges. The Ride promotes safety and fairness for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. This visit to MC is the seventh Equality Ride stop this year. Last year, five Equality Riders were arrested at MC and three were sentenced to community service.

Now in its third year, the Equality Ride has visited over fifty schools, most of which have been welcoming. At other schools, participants have hosted public forums, participated in panel discussions, and taken part in worship services and Bible studies. The goal is to inspire further conversation and to empower students, faculty, and administrators to make their school welcoming to all students.

The organizers of the Equality Ride use a collaborative approach, writing to college administrators months in advance and inviting them to work together to design programming that examines diverse points of view — including points of view that affirm gay and transgender students.

The two women arrested were Caitlin MacIntyre, 19, of Houston, Alex Lundy, 21, of Syosset, NY. They have already been released and, along with the other Equality Riders, are continuing conversations with students. They will remain outside Mississippi College until 5:00 pm CST.

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 through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.com.

The Clarion-Ledger, "Gay rights activists arrested again at MC"

Gay rights activists arrested again at MC

Monday, October 20, 2008
By Ruth Ingram, Clinton News

Jackson, MS—If the gay rights group Soulforce created a big splash during its visit to Mississippi College in early 2007, its return visit Monday produced a ripple by comparison.

Absent was the Clinton Police Department’s SWAT team, its large communications truck and a heavy presence of both Clinton police and security officers employed by the private Baptist college.

Also absent was Soulforce’s brightly painted charter bus that entered campus in 2007 as part of an escorted motorcade. Instead, the 16 “Equality Ride” members who staged a vigil and protest were dropped off and the bus parked elsewhere.

The purpose of the visit, however, was unchanged. Members of Soulforce, a Lynchburg, Va., organization that advocates “relentless nonviolent resistance” to get its message across, wanted to call attention to MC’s policies against homosexual behavior.

“We want to provide hope and safety for the students here, and to tell them we love you just the way you are,” said Caitlin MacIntyre, 19, a junior at Rice University in Houston and the tour’s media director.

Soulforce members who take part in the group’s annual tour of Christian colleges arrive on campus, hold vigils on public sidewalks and streets, then designate several members to walk onto the college’s private grounds, where they are arrested for trespassing. Last year, four members were charged with trespassing at MC.

On Monday, Soulforce riders MacIntyre and Alex Lundy, 21, of Syosset, N.Y., linked arms with MC students Jonathan Parker, 20, of Louisville and Mary Sue Strong, 19, of Jackson and strode onto the grassy area leading to Nelson Hall, the administration building.

Two of a half-dozen or so MC security officers met them quickly, told them that they would be charged with trespassing, and asked MacIntyre and Lundy to follow them to the alumni building.

There, Clinton police were to load them into a van for booking.

MacIntyre and Lundy held hands and followed police in contrast to last year, when protesters were immediately handcuffed when they stepped on MC property.

Strong and Parker were left behind to watch the two women depart.

“The school has done what it can to silence the persecution on this campus,” said Strong, who with Parker describes herself as a “straight ally” of homosexual students.

“It’s not OK to turn a blind eye to what goes on here,” she said. “There is hatred on campus.”

Parker said he was a little scared to defy the administration and walk in solidarity with the Soulforce riders.

“My heart was kind of shaking a little bit,” he said. “But I wanted to stand up for what I believe in. There is no room for hatred on the campus of MC.”

Before the arrests, a group of about 50 students gathered on school property across from more than a dozen Soulforce riders and another dozen students standing with them on the sidewalk in solidarity.

Soulforce member Zak Rittenhouse, a sophomore at Ohio University, stood in the middle of the line they formed, reading an anonymous letter from a student who said he must live “in the closet” at MC.

Some MC students say they defend Soulforce’s right to speak out, but disagree with their message.

“A lot of them stated that ‘We are simply people.’ I agree with that,” said sophomore kinesiology major James Turcotte, 19, of Clinton. His father is Jim Turcotte, MC’s vice president of enrollment management and student affairs.

“I will accept a homosexual person, but I do not agree with their values,” the younger Turcotte said. “In the Bible, Sodom and Gommorah were wiped off the face of this planet because of homosexuality.”

His friend Josh Long, 23, of Clinton took in a few minutes of the protest on his way to his next class.

“It was interesting, to say the least,” Long said. “Even though they were told they were not welcome and if they stepped foot on the grounds they would get arrested, they still did it.”

MC released a statement from Eric Pratt, the college’s vice president for Christian development.

"Soulforce continues to undermine traditional Biblical positions. It is clear that Soulforce is not tolerant of individuals or institutions that hold a conservative, evangelical position,” he said.

“We will not allow any group to force their agenda upon us.”

The original article is available on the Clarion-Ledger website:
http://www.clarionledger.com/article/D7/20081020/NEWS/81020002/1001

2008 Equality Ride Route: Central Baptist College

Central Baptist CollegeThe Equality Ride stop at Central Baptist College is November 7, 2008.

The Equality Rider organizing the stop at Central Baptist College is Alex Lundy.

Alex Lundy Alex Lundy
alex@equalityride.com

If you are a student at Central Baptist College, an alum of Central Baptist College, or a concerned citizen in the Conway, Arkansas area and would like to help with the Soulforce Q Equality Ride’s visit to Central Baptist College, please register below.

Register to help with the 2008 Equality Ride’s stop at Central Baptist College