Administration Shuts Down Dialogue; Eight Are Arrested
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 13, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Milwaukee, WI) — A group of gay and straight young adults, members of the Soulforce Equality Ride, joined students on campus Tuesday at Wisconsin Lutheran College to talk about gay and lesbian issues and faith. Equality Riders stood with Bibles in hand, offered literature, and attempted to worship in the campus chapel service. The school met this peaceful visit with the decision to press trespassing charges.
The 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride is a national tour to colleges with policies that silence or exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. The mission of the Equality Ride is to create dialogue about religion-based discrimination.
On Monday, a delegation from the college and seven Equality Riders met in an off-campus location outside Milwaukee to conduct a formal introduction and explore the possibility of a school visit on Tuesday. "The administrators were unsympathetic, but the students were excited to speak with us," said Alexey Bulokhov, Co-Director of the Ride.
"Many of the students bowed their heads, cried, and shifted uncomfortably as the school officials repeatedly condemned us. One brave young woman stepped forward and joined our closing prayer, despite the school officials’ outright refusal to do so."
Pastor Nathan Strobel and other administrators iterated the school’s position that "the homosexual lifestyle" is a sin and that the school disciplines accordingly.
As the introductions took place on Monday, twenty remaining Riders stood vigil in front of the school, singing and praying, for eight hours. Students came off-campus to speak with Riders, talk about the Bible, and pick up pamphlets.
No agreement was reached for an on-campus meeting. As Riders and community members walked onto campus Tuesday, campus security made it clear that they were not welcome. Within an hour, police had arrested six Equality Riders, a local pastor, and another local man. They were charged with trespassing for remaining in vigil at the campus chapel and speaking with students on the campus quad.
Those arrested include: local pastor Wendy Woodruff, local man Ray Vahey, and Equality Riders Emily Van Kley, Allison Eby, Jonathan Hilbrands, Justin Hager, Kourt Osborn, and Emil Pohlig.
Wisconsin Lutheran was the second stop for the Equality Ride’s westbound bus. On Thursday, March 15, the Soulforce Equality Riders will join Kansas City students in planting flowers as part of the Tulips on Troost Project. The service project is the commencement of the Riders’ two-day visit to MidAmerica Nazarene University, which will include forums, presentations, and classroom visits to talk about faith and sexuality. MidAmerica Nazarene University is one of 32 schools, all of which discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, scheduled for the second annual Soulforce Equality Ride this March and April.
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.