Two Students and One Equality Rider Arrested for Standing on Public Sidewalk Outside of University of the Cumberlands; Gay Student Expelled One Year Ago

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 28, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Williamsburg, KY) — Today, three young adults were arrested for standing on the public sidewalk perimeter of University of the Cumberlands. Twenty-two young adults from the Soulforce Equality Ride traveled to the university to speak messages affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.

When the Equality Riders arrived at the University of the Cumberlands, police from throughout Whitley County surrounded the bus and the Riders were immediately informed that any attempt to enter onto campus would result in arrest. The riders exited the bus and lined up along the street in order to stand vigil but were promptly told by police that they were not allowed to stand along the public sidewalk.

The Equality Riders began to walk up and down the sidewalk in front of the campus, singing songs from the Civil Rights Movement. After 15 minutes, the young adults broke up to speak with students waiting on the periphery of campus. However police sent mixed messages to the Equality Riders, saying at one point that no individual could stand stationary on the public sidewalk and later that only groups of 3 or more would be arrested for standing stationary. It soon became clear that no individual could stand still along the sidewalk, even to converse with students.

Previously, in Clinton, Mississippi, Equality Riders had faced similar infringements on their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. There the city also tried to take away the Equality Riders ability to peaceably assemble on public property. Mississippi ACLU lawyer John Williams wrote Clinton citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent that established right to assembly infringements as "the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment Rights."

One Equality Rider, Jake Reitan, was arrested for standing still along the sidewalk, although he was given no warning or order to disperse. Upon seeing this, two students from the University of the Cumberlands decided to stand on the sidewalk. After about 15 minutes they were arrested by the police.

Some students expressed fear at the University’s backlash towards those who interacted with the Equality Riders. "I would hug you, but we just put in for a budget increase for our student group," said one anonymous student to Jason Johnson, a friend of hers who had been expelled from the school for being gay last year. Another student mused on whether he would be expelled for being videotaped talking to Equality Riders.

The University of Cumberlands maintains a policy that states "Any student who engages in or promotes sexual behavior not consistent with Christian principles (including sex outside marriage and homosexuality) may be suspended or asked to withdraw from the University of the Cumberlands."

Despite the restrictions forced onto the Equality Riders by the University and police, many students chose to walk with the riders up and down the sidewalk in order to speak with them about the university’s discriminatory policy towards LGBT students.

University of the Cumberlands is one of 32 mostly Christian colleges and universities that Soulforce will visit as part of its second annual Soulforce Equality Ride. The 2007 Equality Ride is a 2 month journey by bus that is taking 50 young adults on 2 distinct routes to schools that actively discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The West Bus of the Equality Ride is currently traveling through California visiting Pepperdine University and Fresno Pacific University.


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.

Sit-in at Southern Baptist Leader’s Office Ends in 12 Arrests

12 Arrested Demanding Apology for Comments About Gay Eugenics

Equality Riders Arrested for Sit-in Outside of Albert Mohler’s Office at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Mohler Refuses to Respond

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 26, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Louisville, KY) — Today, 12 young adults were arrested for conducting a sit-in outside of the office of Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). In light of recent inflammatory comments by Albert Mohler, leaders of the Equality Ride eastbound bus decided to reroute temporarily in order to demand an apology for his remarks. Earlier this year, Mohler encouraged the intentional prevention of homosexuality. In an article on his website, Mohler wrote, "If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin."

Twenty-two Equality Riders sat in Norton Hall at SBTS awaiting a response from Mohler. After about 75 minutes, the Vice President of Communications listened to a statement read by Jarrett Lucas, Co-Director of the Equality Ride. Afterwards, the administrator informed the group that Mohler was unwilling to meet with them or speak with them via telephone.

An excerpt from the statement reads, "We are gathered here as straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to demand that Albert Mohler openly recognize our right to life, love, and liberty. As it stands, his voice is terribly misguided in believing that God does not affirm the identities of gay and transgender people. So, we call on him to take responsibility for his bigotry and the hurtful effects of his statements, and ask that he issue a public apology for having said them. We have a moral obligation to speak out in the name of truth and justice."

After the statement was read, Louisville Police were called in and informed the group that their peaceful assembly would result in arrest. At that point, a delegation left to stand vigil outside of the Seminary. Twelve Equality Riders, determined to stay until Mohler apologized, remained seated outside of the President’s Office. Eventually, they were taken into custody under criminal trespassing charges.

The 2007 Equality Ride is a 2-month journey that is taking 50 young adults on 2 distinct bus routes to schools that actively discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


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.

Police Harass Traveling Young Adults; Nonviolent Group is Threatened and Intimidated by Officers

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 23, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Clinton, MS) — As a traveling group of young adults attempted to recollect and depart Clinton, Mississippi, they were stopped three times by police vehicles within less than ten minutes. Their driver was subjected to threatening demands to "get out of town."

In response to this clear act of harassment, the Co-Directors of the tour wrote a letter to the Attorney General of Mississippi that voiced their concerns regarding this maltreatment and stated their intentions to return today.

The young adults are participants of the Soulforce Equality Ride, a 2-month journey to Christian schools to address the suffering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. As their goal is social justice and loving inclusion, they are committed to and trained in the principles of nonviolence as taught by Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.

Please see the letter below.

Also available: Letter from leaders of major LGBT rights organizations to the Mayor of Clinton [pdf]

March 23, 2007

Attorney General Jim Hood

MS Attorney General’s Office
Carroll Gartin Justice Building
450 High Street
Jackson, MS 39201

Sent Via: Facsimile

Re: "Get out of town"

Dear Attorney General Hood,

We write today out of deep concern for the actions of the Clinton Mississippi Police Department. We are the Co-Directors of the Soulforce Equality Ride, a bus tour of college students who are crossing the country to advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality. As a group we are committed to and trained in the principles of nonviolence, and have a history of peaceful dialogue and respectful interaction with college students and administrations across the country. Soulforce has an outstanding relationship with many police departments and honors the hard work that law enforcement officials put into their lives everyday.

Last night, while in the town of Clinton, Mississippi, we experienced a distressing form of police intimidation. After a day of dialogue at nearby Mississippi College, we parked our bus in downtown Clinton. We were waiting for the return of some of the members of our tour from area coffee shops. While waiting, a police vehicle approached the bus with its lights flashing, signaling us to move. Our bus driver immediately turned down the nearest road and into a church parking lot to await the Equality Riders. The same officer once again followed us into the parking lot, with his lights on and asked our driver to speak with him. The officer was quite aggressive in demanding that we "go on and get out of town." Our driver explained that we were still waiting on the remainder of our group, but was still forced to move the bus. At that time, we drove and parked the bus in a lot that was previously designated by the city of Clinton. For the third time, a police vehicle approached us with flashing lights. The officer who approached us was extremely indignant and asked us "what is your problem? We have already given you breaks today." Our driver explained that we were in the space the City provided for us. In response, the officer asserted that our driver would be arrested if he were to take us anywhere else and not leave the city of Clinton immediately. Soon after, a community member arrived with the rest of the Equality Riders and we left promptly. We are prepared to provide sworn affidavits from ten people who can attest to the above series of events.

This behavior on the part of a Clinton police officer is unacceptable and we consider it a violation of our civil rights. Law abiding citizens should be allowed to safely assemble in any town in America. Such actions on the part of a law enforcement agent serve to make gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people feel unsafe in the city of Clinton. The role of a police officer is to protect members of the public, not threaten or intimidate them.

These concerns are augmented by the fact that several days prior to our arrival in Clinton, we received a document from the Clinton Police Department that set restrictions on our First Amendment right to assemble. After being contacted by the American Civil Liberties Union, the city rescinded the unconstitutional restrictions and shamefully applauded Soulforce for "playing the game well."

We are planning on returning to the city of Clinton today for a preplanned community picnic and we will not tolerate a repeat of this sort of behavior from the Clinton Police Department. If threatened with arrest for lawful assembly today members of the Soulforce Equality Ride are prepared and willing to submit to such an arrest. Any arrests for lawful assembly would be challenged by us in court and followed up with a lawsuit on our behalf against the city of Clinton for violation of our civil rights.

We hope that you will take swift action by informing the city of Clinton that such behavior by the Clinton Police is unlawful and will not be tolerated in the State of Mississippi.

Jarrett Lucas & Katie Higgins


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.

Mormon Equality Rider and Mother Arrested at BYU; National Tour of Young Adults Out to Reconcile Gays and the Church

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 22, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com
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(Salt Lake City, UT) — Mormon Equality Rider Kourt Osborn, and his mother, Karel Allen, were arrested in an attempt to deliver a list of concerns to the administration regarding BYU’s discriminatory policies against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The list was presented with a white lily symbolizing the LDS youth who have committed suicide because they could not reconcile their LDS faith and sexual orientation. Concurrently, Equality Riders and community members walked for 6 hours on BYU’s perimeter to reenact the "Walls of Jericho" march, symbolizing the walls of oppression at BYU. Current and former BYU students, gay and straight, submitted over fifty pages of concerns for the well-being of LGBT students at BYU.

This is the fourth stop for the Equality Ride, a national tour of 50 young adults visiting schools that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. The Equality Riders are gay, straight, and transgender, Christian and non-Christian, and their group includes 4 LDS Riders.

The BYU Student Honor Code states that "no one known to be guilty of overt and active homosexual conduct is to be enrolled or permitted to remain at Church Educational System (CES) campuses as students…"

Brian Carl, a current BYU student and straight ally, says "the homophobic atmosphere at BYU makes it possible for students to verbally attack SSA [same-sex attracted] individuals."

The Equality Riders spent Wednesday afternoon at UVSC leading presentations about sexual orientation and faith to many community members, including LDS youth, and spent Wednesday evening with fifty BYU students discussing the reconciliation of the Church and LGBT individuals. "What can we do for the LGBT community?" one BYU student said during the open dialogue.

Melissa Pomeroy, a sophomore at BYU, shared her concern: "I feel like I’m all alone at BYU. There is no way for me to meet others like me, even just to talk, because everyone is so afraid of coming out."

Last week, while the Soulforce Equality Riders were in Colorado, they received a letter from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints asking that Equality Riders "not enter church property for any purpose."

"After months of attempted dialogue, it is clear that the administration at BYU does not respect this conversation and wishes to silence the issue and their students. We return because at this very moment, there are many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students suffering alone on campus, many of whom have reached out to us," says Matt Kulisch, BYU stop coordinator and former BYU student.

"We remain hopeful that the student leaders will continue this dialogue beyond our [Equality Riders’] visit and that the administration will come to see the value in this discussion," Kulisch adds.

The Equality Riders will continue their mission to end religion-based discrimination against the LGBT community as they visit Brigham Young University, Idaho in mid-April. The next stop on the Ride will be Pepperdine University in Malibu, where Equality Riders will engage in a welcomed dialogue regarding Pepperdine’s discriminatory policies.


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.

National Tour of Christian Colleges Faces Resistance at Mississippi College, BYU

Echoes of the Past as Mississippi Town Attempts to Restrict Constitutional Rights; ACLU Intervenes

Mormons Bar Equality Riders on All Church Property

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 21, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com
Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Provo, UT and Clinton, MI) — Two weeks ago, 50 young men and women boarded two buses and set out on a remarkable journey. Their mission: to initiate conversations about faith and sexuality at 32 Christian colleges with policies that silence or exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. This week, the Riders face their toughest challenges yet as the westbound bus travels to Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah and the eastbound bus travels to Mississippi College in Mississippi.

Thus far, the Riders have shared moments of reconciliation, prayer, and connection with conservative Christian students at colleges on two separate routes across the nation, but they have also faced harassment and intimidation. Their bus was defaced with anti-gay slurs in Sioux Center, Iowa and they were met by armed police on the rooftops at Central Bible College in Missouri.

Currently, 5 Equality Riders and 1 Baylor University student are being held in the McClennan County Jail in Waco, Texas. The Riders were arrested Tuesday on criminal trespassing charges after they wrote messages affirming LGBT students in chalk on Baylor sidewalks. The Riders’ bail has been set at $2,000 each, which is equivalent to the maximum fine under Texas law.

Riders are also facing organized, official resistance as they prepare to visit BYU, where Mormon Riders have been banned from their own church, and Clinton, Miss., where police officials attempted to abridge the Riders’ constitutional rights.

Clinton, Mississippi: Echoes of Past Civil Rights Struggles
Police Officials Attempt to Deny the Right to Assemble

On Tuesday, police officials in Clinton, Miss., informed the eastbound Equality Riders that members of their group would be cited if they "attempt to gather or travel in a group of four or more" near the campus of Mississippi College.

In an addendum to an assembly permit, Lt. Thomas R. Ruffin acknowledged that the department’s actions "could be construed as conflicting with constitutional allowances," but suggested that the young people’s presence in the city presented "valid public safety concerns."

Equality Riders immediately contacted the ACLU of Mississippi, who intervened on the group’s behalf. In a letter to Ruffin, ACLU-Mississippi Staff Attorney John Williams cited Supreme Court precedents establishing prior restraints on the right to assemble as "the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment Rights."

Williams continued, "it is unconstitutional and unlawful for your office to deny citizens the right to peacefully assemble on public property without the above mentioned safeguards and restraints. From a legal standpoint your licensing requirement is wrought with constitutional violations and restrictions on First Amendment grounds."

Clinton police officials immediately withdrew the unconstitutional restrictions.

Mississippi College Administrator Likens Equality Ride Visit to 9/11

Officials at Mississippi College, the second oldest Baptist college in the nation, have made it clear that the Equality Riders’ loving perspective on LGBT students is not welcome on campus.

In negotiations prior to the visit, one administrator likened the Riders to terrorists, vowing that the campus would deal with the Equality Riders "just like America dealt with 9/11."

In reality, the Soulforce Equality Ride is rooted in a philosophy of non-violent social change as reflected in the teachings of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Thursday, March 22, the Riders plan a peaceful vigil on a public sidewalk adjacent to the campus at 10 am. During the vigil, Equality Riders will make themselves available to students who are interested in speaking with them. The vigil will take place on College Street, between Capitol and Jefferson.

"While fear plays a strong role on this campus and in this town, the truth of our message is stronger: God loves all of His children, regardless of their sexual orientation," says Stephen Krebs, one of the organizers of the Equality Ride visit to Mississippi College.

Brigham Young University: Mormon Equality Riders Barred From all Church Property

Last week, Soulforce Equality Riders on the westbound bus received a letter from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints asking that Equality Riders "not enter church property for any purpose." The Riders had planned to volunteer at the church-affiliated Welfare Square Cannery and to visit Temple Square to learn more about the LDS faith in preparation for a stop at Brigham Young University on Thursday, March 22.

The BYU Student Honor Code states that "no one known to be guilty of overt and active homosexual conduct is to be enrolled or permitted to remain at Church Educational System (CES) campuses as students." It also identifies "advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle (whether implied or explicit) or any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature," as violations of the Honor Code.

The Equality Riders’ goal at is to expose the suffering that this policy creates and to provide resources for hope and reconciliation.

"Many LGBT students in our community suffer in silence," says Kourt Osborn, one of the organizers of the BYU stop. "They feel lonely, without friends or avenues for support. They feel threatened by BYU or by their own feelings inside, without affirming and correct information to give them a sense of identity."

Tomorrow, Equality Riders and Provo community members will begin a six-hour "Walls of Jericho" walk around the outskirts campus in order to draw attention to the issues that LGBT students face at BYU.

During the march, Riders will hold a press conference for community members, students, and former students to present grievances, letters, and concerns to the BYU community. This List of Concerns represents contributions directly from the BYU community to the school administration. The press conference will be held at the corner of Bulldog and North Canyon at 11 a.m.

Immediately after the press conference, Riders, community members, and BYU students will attempt to deliver the List of Concerns to Vice President Jan Scharman. The Equality Riders have already received an official notice of trespassing and proclamation of arrest if they enter Church or University property.

Looking Back: Moments of Reconciliation and Witness

In spite of the resistance that the Ride has encountered, the Riders have also participated in moments of genuine dialogue and reconciliation. At Wisconsin Lutheran, Riders were not allowed on campus, but the did manage an off-campus meeting with administrators and select students.

"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," said Alexey Bulokhov, Co-director of the Ride.

At Oklahoma Baptist University, the Equality Riders walked on to campus with a banner filled with Bible verses and affirmations of LGBT students. When the Riders were arrested, 2 OBU students, who asked to remain anonymous, picked up the banner and brought it the rest of the way to the Student Center.

"We just wanted to finish what they started," said one of the participating students. "People should know that what they’re doing isn’t wrong, that our lives aren’t wrong."

Looking Ahead

The Soulforce Equality Riders will continue their journey through April 26. A complete list of stops is available online at the links below.

 


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.

Baylor Student Arrested for Action Affirming Gay Students; Equality Riders Join BU Students to Resist Climate of Silence and Fear

Administration Refuses to Discuss Safety of Gay Students

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 21, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Waco, TX) — Yesterday, six young adults were arrested for chalking on campus at Baylor University. Around 20 young adults, an even mix of Equality Riders and Baylor students, wrote Bible verses and other messages affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students on the sidewalk in front of Waco Hall, where students regularly worship. After about five minutes, plainclothes police from the Waco Police Department approached and ordered the riders and students to stop.

Five of the Equality Riders and one Baylor student remained relentless in their mission to bring messages of inclusion and refused to stop chalking. They were promptly arrested for criminal trespassing. They remained in custody overnight and have not been released.

The remaining Equality Riders lined up on either side of the walkway and began to sing "We Shall Overcome" and other songs as Baylor students watched in tears. After the police had finished arresting those chalking, they ordered the rest of the riders and students to leave campus or be arrested for trespassing.

"For a campus that is ‘comfortable with conversations about human sexuality,’ Baylor seems very quick to silence those who have differing opinions on the topic," said one student, who asked to remain anonymous. The student was referencing an e-mail to the student body from Dr. Samuel Oliver, Vice President for Student Life.

Included in those arrested were Amanda Harris, a former Baylor student, Vince Cervantes, Shawn O’Neil, Mandy Mathias, Joshua Polycarpe, and Sean Morrison, a current student at Baylor.

Baylor University is one of 32 mostly Christian colleges and universities that Soulforce will visit as part of its second annual Soulforce Equality Ride. The 2007 Equality Ride is a 2 month journey by bus that is taking 50 young adults on 2 distinct routes to schools that actively discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Baylor University, a private Christian university located in Waco, TX, has a policy that identifies "homosexual acts" as a "misuse of God’s gift" and as grounds for sanction.

On Monday, the Equality Riders visited campus, attended chapel, and initiated informal conversations with students about the climate for LGBT students and their supporters. In these conversations, and in public forum off-campus, gay and straight Baylor students and alumni described an atmosphere of fear and silence and detailed at least one instance of anti-gay intimidation in the residence halls.

Although Baylor officials decided not to arrest the Equality Riders for entering onto campus Monday, the Equality Ride was refused an official forum to raise isssues about the discriminatory policy and the atmosphere it breeds. The riders and students decided to chalk in order to provide a voice to silenced lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

The chalking was also done in remembrance of Baylor Freedom, an underground LGBT rights organization that was never officially recognized by Baylor University. The organization used to regularly chalk on campus in order to create awareness about issues surrounding the LGBT community and to create a support network for students. However, Baylor staff would immediately wash off the messages of affirmation. Today, the messages of religious love and inclusion were washed off by Baylor administration within an hour of the action.


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.

"Our Lives Aren’t Wrong"; OBU Students Join With Equality Riders to Deliver Message of Love

Six Young Adults Arrested; OBU Students Take Up Banner Affirming LGBT Lives

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 15, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Shawnee, Oklahoma) — Six young adults were arrested on the Oklahoma Baptist University campus today as they attempted to deliver a tapestry filled with Bible verses and affirmations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. These young men and women are participants in the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride, a national campaign to create dialogue at campuses that discriminate against LGBT students.

The Equality Riders walked on to campus with 2 students from OBU. When the Riders were arrested, the students, who asked to remain anonymous, picked up the tapestry and brought it the rest of the way to the Geiger Student Center.

"We just wanted to finish what they started," said one of the participating students. "People should know that what they’re doing isn’t wrong, that our lives aren’t wrong."

Several other members of the Oklahoma community, including current and former OBU students, helped the Equality Riders create the tapestry. Two members of the Stillwater chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Lucy Wilkes and Wilma Ramming, walked with the Riders to the edge of campus.

The OBU student handbook lists "homosexual behavior" alongside rape and incest as "forms of sexuality that deviate from the biblical standard for sexuality." The handbook identifies "mandatory counseling, probation, or departure from the University" as the disciplinary consequences of homosexual behavior.

Yesterday, 5 Equality Riders were arrested while attempting to worship at the campus chapel with OBU students. In 2006 the inaugural Equality Ride visited Oklahoma Baptist University to create discussion about school policies and their painful consequences for LGBT students. During that visit, a current OBU student spoke to the media about intimidation and harassment of students perceived to be gay or lesbian.

The Soulforce Equality Ride seeks to create a conversation with the next generation of conservative Christian leaders about the painful consequences of discrimination. The Equality Ride is a 2-month tour to 32 schools and colleges on 2 separate routes. The 50 Equality Riders include former students of conservative Christian colleges, straight allies and gay evangelical Christians.

The Equality Riders arrested today were: Casey Chandler-Alexander, Bram Wispelwey, Bronwen Tomb, Stephen Krebs, Greg Johnson, and Jarrett Lucas.


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.

Equality Riders Arrested at Oklahoma Baptist University; Administration Reneges on Last Year’s Promise to Protect LGBT Students

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 15, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Shawnee, Oklahoma) — Yesterday, 5 Equality Riders were arrested for attempting to worship at chapel with students from Oklahoma Baptist University. The Soulforce Equality Ride is a nationwide journey of 50 young adults visiting conservative Christian colleges to challenge policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The arrests were made when all 26 of the East Bus Equality Riders and 1 community member sought to enter onto campus and were turned away with a warning of trespassing. Five of the Equality Riders, truly determined to worship with students, were arrested by the Shawnee Police. The 5 arrested were Katie Higgins, 23; Rachel Loskill, 21; Robin Reynolds, 23; Curtis Peterson, 21; and Angel Collie, 24.

The bus holding 25 diverse young adults, including former students of conservative Christian colleges, straight allies and gay evangelical Christians, traveled to Shawnee to visit OBU and bring a message of inclusion and academic freedom to students. This is the second time the Equality Ride has visited OBU. The first time came in 2006 when the administration allowed Equality Riders to remain in a single room, which limited dialogue with students.

Since the visit by the inaugural Equality Ride, the school’s policy has become more extreme and explicit – it now bans advocacy and support for LGBT students by straight allies as well as openly gay and transgender students.

When the Equality Riders arrived on Thursday they were warned by campus security that any entrance onto campus would result in arrest. Relentless in their mission to talk with students about the university’s discrimination against LGBT students, 5 of the Equality Riders chose to go onto campus anyway in the hopes of initiating conversation.

"Many OBU students are disappointed with the administration’s decision to deny this opportunity for dialogue. Last year, important steps were taken in expanding the minds of students on the issue of faith, gender, and sexuality. This year, however, administration has decided to remove inclusive perspectives from the discussion, exemplifying the injustice that has brought the Equality Ride here," said Co-Director Jarrett Lucas.

In addition to the harsher policy, a student’s request to include LGBT students in the university’s anti-discrimination policy was rejected this past year. The rejection came in spite of the university’s previous promise to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups.

The Equality Ride plans to return to OBU’s campus today in hopes of continuing conversations with students just outside of campus grounds. The group will also be presenting a tapestry of affirming statements and biblical verses.

The Equality Ride East Bus was in Springfield, MO earlier this week, where two straight allies were arrested for attempting to enter onto Central Bible College’s campus. After its stop in Shawnee, OK the Equality Ride plans to visit Baylor University in Waco, TX where Equality Riders are being allowed onto campus as guests of students.


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.

Fear Leads to Arrests at Central Bible College

Straight Equality Riders Arrested in National Campaign to Address Religion-Based Discrimination

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 12, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Springfield, MO) — This morning two young adults were arrested for attempting to enter the campus of Central Bible College. Abigail Reikow and Brandy Daniels, both straight women, stepped onto campus in order to talk with students about religion-based discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The Central Bible College student handbook lists "homosexuality" and "lesbianism" as possible grounds for probation or suspension.

Reikow and Daniels are participants in the Soulforce Equality Ride, a nationwide journey of 50 young adults on two buses who are visiting conservative Christian colleges to open a dialogue about the painful consequences of discrimination and the religion-based prejudice that sustains it. Like many of the Equality Riders, Daniels comes from an evangelical Christian background. She was raised in the Assemblies of God, a charismatic Christian faith. Central Bible College is considered the flagship school of the Assemblies of God.

The 25 Riders on the eastbound bus arrived in Springfield Saturday evening and participated in community events all day Sunday. Today Equality Riders arrived at Central Bible College and held a silent vigil in honor of the LGBT students who have been harmed and silenced by CBC’s discriminatory policy. "Central Bible College had a wonderful opportunity to engage in conversation about faith and sexuality with a new perspective added, but they chose to reject an affirming voice and went so far as to arrest two heterosexual Equality Riders who wanted to address their peers," said Jarrett Lucas, co-director of the East Bus.

The Equality Riders remained undeterred in their determination to bring a message of inclusion and academic freedom to Central Bible College. Reikow and Daniels walked onto the campus in order to talk with students exiting from CBC’s worship service. Springfield police immediately arrested both women for criminal trespassing.

The vigil and civil disobedience action came after campus officials refused the Equality Ride’s attempts to initiate dialogue. Today’s civil disobedience was conducted in a spirit of nonviolence, in the hopes of creating conversation among students about discrimination against LGBT students. Central Bible College is the second stop for the East Bus of the Soulforce Equality Ride. The first stop was at Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA where the Equality Riders were invited onto campus and dialogue was welcomed.


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.

Arrests Made on Notre Dame Campus; Young Adult Activists Taken Into Custody

Equality Riders on a Mission to End Religion-Based Discrimination

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 9, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com
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(South Bend, IN) — Six young adults were arrested today for walking onto the Notre Dame campus in a show of support for gay and lesbian equality. The arrestees are members of the Soulforce Equality Ride, a nationwide mission of 50 gay and straight youth leaders who seek to address religion-based discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students on anti-gay college campuses.

The six Soulforce members were joined by two Notre Dame students, Eddie Velazquez and a graduate theology student who requested anonymity, as they walked two by two carrying flowered wreaths intended for the site of the Tom Dooley memorial statue, a gay alumnus of Notre Dame who served in silence as a doctor in the Navy.

On Thursday, Notre Dame campus police issued trespass warnings to two Equality Riders for speaking with students in the cafeteria. Those Riders were the first arrested today for misdemeanor criminal trespassing. The other four Soulforce members were given written citations and then arrested on the same charges after attempting to continue the walk. Velazquez and the graduate student received an "official summons subject to immediate suspension" from campus officials. They were able to deliver one of the three wreaths to the Dooley memorial site.

"As a gay Catholic man who was once in seminary, I walked onto Notre Dame today to help make my church a universal church. I did as Jesus Christ did and went all the way for love," said Rider Delfin Bautista who helped organize the stop in South Bend. The twenty-five Soulforce Equality Riders will continue to outreach to the local South Bend, Indiana, community with a film screening of "In Good Conscience," the story of a Catholic nun who struggles with the Vatican for gay and lesbian equality.

Those arrested today include: Haven Herrin, Delfin Bautista, Jess Kalup, Kelsey Pacha, Dan Seda, and Mike Cramer. They were released within hours with a ticket to appear in court at a later date.

For two years, Notre Dame has remained at the top of a list of least gay-friendly schools according to a Princeton Review survey of students at the college. AllianceND, an LGBT student group, has been denied official status as a student organization. Official student organizations may not be in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church, which holds that homosexual orientation is "a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil."

The Soulforce Equality Ride will continue their 32-school journey at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI on March 12. The school has agreed to a limited off-campus meeting but has yet to welcome the Soulforce Equality Ride for discussion of faith and gay and lesbian issues and may arrest Riders for walking on campus.


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.