2010 Equality Ride Route: Baylor University

 

The Equality Ride stop at Baylor University is April 6, 2010.Baylor University

The Equality Rider’s organizing the stop at Baylor University are Mia Mutch, Charles Truth and Jaxon Lindars.

Mia Mia Mutch
mia_mutch@equalityride.com
Charles Charles Truth
charles_truth@equalityride.com
Jaxon Jaxon Lindars
jaxon@equalityride.com

If you are a student at Baylor University, an alum of Baylor University, or a concerned citizen in the Waco, TX area and would like to help with the Soulforce Q Equality Ride’s visit to Baylor University, please register below.

Register to help with the 2010 Equality Ride’s stop at Baylor University

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
******************************************

(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.

East Bus Route

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2007 Equality Ride East Bus Route

Stop Date School Location
1 March 8-9 Dordt College Sioux Center, IA
2 March 12 Central Bible College Springfield, MO
3 March 14-15 Oklahoma Baptist University Shawnee, OK
4 March 19 Baylor University Waco, TX
5 March 22 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
6 March 26 Union University Jackson, TN
7 March 28 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
8 March 30 Samford University Birmingham, AL
9 April 2 Covenant College Lookout Mountain, GA
10 April 4 Bob Jones University Greenville, SC
11 April 10 Montreat College Montreat, NC
12 April 12 Patrick Henry College Purcellville, VA
13 April 13 Messiah College Grantham, PA
14 April 16-17 Gordon College Wenham, MA
15 April 19-20 Cedarville University Cedarville, OH
16 April 23 Cornerstone University Grand Rapids, MI
17 April 24 Calvin College Grand Rapids, MI
18 April 26 Bethany Lutheran College Mankato, MN

 

2007 Equality Ride West Bus Route