Soulforce Q Seeks Young Adult Applicants for 2010 Equality Ride

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 26, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Director, 908-319-3565
Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
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(Austin, TX) In March 2010, young adults from around the country and around the world will embark on the fourth annual Equality Ride, a youth bus tour visiting religious colleges and universities across the United States to challenge on-campus discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students. Guided by the principles of nonviolence, Equality Riders will engage in critical dialogue, direct action, and in some cases civil disobedience, to press for much-needed changes for LGBTQ students.

“The Equality Ride is an opportunity for young adults to come together in the struggle for social justice,” says Asher Kolieboi, co-director of the Equality Ride.  “It’s a way for both LGBTQ folks and straight allies to work together to address religious-based oppression and create safe spaces for queer youth on campuses across the country.”

For two months Riders will stop at a variety of religious colleges and universities to meet with campus administrators and students, and engage local communities on a range of issues from the relationship between faith and sexuality to the intersections of race and gender.  “Like past Equality Rides, we hope to open dialogue on campus about issues affecting LGBTQ youth,” says Caitlin MacIntyre, Director of the Equality Ride. “But we’re also looking to build relationships between campus and the surrounding community to keep that conversation alive.”

Inspired by the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the Equality Ride began in 2006 to address the over 200 U.S. colleges and universities with explicit policies that discriminate against LGBTQ students.  Developed by Soulforce Q–the youth-driven arm of the national LGBTQ social justice organization Soulforce–the Equality Ride has stopped at nearly seventy academic communities since its inception, leading vigils, classroom presentations, worship services, and an assortment of direct actions to draw attention to the dangers of religion-based discrimination. 

Soulforce Q is now seeking applications for the upcoming ride.  For information on how to apply, visit: www.equalityride.com. 

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.

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Jackson Sun, "Three arrested at peaceful demonstration at Union"

Three arrested at peaceful demonstration at Union

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
By Ned B. Hunter, The Jackson Sun

Three members of the Soulforce Q Equality Ride team were arrested Monday during a peaceful demonstration on the campus of Union University.

The group was protesting university policy regarding homosexual, bisexual and transgender students.

Manuel Lampon of New York, NY; Zakariah Rittenhouse of Frankfort, Ohio and Jarrett Lucas of Minneapolis, Minn. were arrested by police.

They were charged with criminal trespassing, said Jeff Mueller, an attorney representing the men. They were released after posting $1,000 bond, he said.

Criminal trespassing is a Class C misdemeanor carrying a possible penalty of up to 30 days in jail and up to a $50 fine, Mueller said.

A university news release stated that the three were arrested after they "chose to disrespect Union’s private property rights and advance into an area that had been described several times as off limits to the riders."

Union University officials had allowed the protesters to use Luther Hall, a building at the end of Country Club Lane, to assemble and meet with students.

A private university donor volunteered to pay for meals the group might need during its two-day visit to the campus, which ends today.

Soulforce Q members assembled at the building before marching onto campus. They refused the offer of food.

Some students went to Luther Hall to speak with the protesters. But Caitlin MacIntyre, media director for Soulforce, said protesters tried to enter Union’s grounds because Luther Hall was too far from the main campus.

"We were very far removed from the students and unable to react to them," MacIntyre said.

Visit jacksonsun.com and share your thoughts.

The original article is available on the Jackson Sun website:
http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20081111/NEWS01/811110310

KARK 4 News, "5:50 p.m. – Equality Riders" (on Ouachita Baptist and Central Baptist stops)

5:50 p.m. – Equality Riders

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 @ 05:55pm CST
By Mallory Hardin, KARK 4 News

A group of young people are arrested on a college campus in Conway earlier this week for trespassing. Wednesday, the same group stopped at an Arkadelphia college to let their message be heard. The Soulforce Equality Riders are a social justice group aimed at encouraging and empowering gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and trans-gender people.

They’re touring the country in a bus, with their destination being private Christian colleges, with a stop Wednesday at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. The equality riders say it’s all about dialogue, and they hope to create conversations that will continue after they leave campus.

Though their stops aren’t always peaceful. Monday, four of them were arrested for trespassing at Central Baptist College in Conway. Wednesday, administrators and security at Ouachita Baptist were prepared for their arrival.

"Schools have an option of immediately arresting them or providing them a location for them to meet peacefully," Trennis Henderson, VP of Communications at Ouachita Baptist University said.

That’s the approach Ouachita Baptist took. They restricted the equality riders to outskirts of campus, but gave students the option to see what was going on.

"This is an opportunity to show Christianity, speak the truth in love," Ouachita Junior Phillip Williamson said.

The equality riders hope to open minds and educate during their college tour, and if that means getting arrested, that’s a risk they’re willing to take.

"Especially the students that are gay and trans-gender that and are scared that we come to them, and so I think we do have to make that effort," Caitiln Macintyre, with Soulforce Equity Riders said.

The equality riders are headed to colleges in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The original article is available on the Arkansas Matters website:
http://arkansasmatters.com/content/fulltext/news/?cid=142311

The Houston Chronicle, "Gay-rights group members arrested at college"

Gay-rights group members arrested at college

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Uncredited, The Associated Press

WAXAHACHIE, Texas — Three members of a gay-rights group on a nationwide bus tour of faith-based universities were arrested Wednesday after going to a private campus that had banned them, officials said.

Three members of Soulforce were charged with trespassing after they tried to go to a chapel service at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, a 1,900-student Pentecostal school, according to the Waxahachie Police Department. Their bond was to be set at an arraignment Wednesday afternoon.

The group earlier sent a letter to Southwestern Assemblies requesting a forum, but the president declined and asked Soulforce to stay off the campus, said university spokesman Ryan McElhany.

"It’s not a question that’s up for debate for us," McElhany said. "We love the people, but we do believe that homosexuality is a sin."

The Southwestern Assemblies handbook lists homosexuality as an offense for which a student can be expelled, but if a current student is struggling with such feelings, he or she may be referred to counseling instead, McElhany said.

Soulforce has already held forums at nearly a dozen campuses since the Equality Ride tour began earlier this month to promote inclusion at schools it believes have policies that discriminate against gay students. Several Soulforce members have already been arrested for trespassing at three schools in other states.

"We never want to get arrested; our goal is to spread a message of hope and fairness and to talk to students and meet them where they are," said Soulforce spokeswoman Caitlin MacIntyre. "Three men really wanted to attend the (Southwestern Assemblies of God University) chapel service, and we would have reached more people, but the university put up boundaries."

She said more colleges welcome than reject the group. Dallas Baptist University has been the most receptive during this tour because last week’s forum was a daylong event in which Soulforce met with its administrators, faculty and students, MacIntyre said.

Before the Wednesday arrests, about 15 Southwestern Assemblies representatives — including administrators and student leaders — had a "low-key discussion" with the 15 or so Soulforce members, McElhany said. Afterward, the bus remained parked in a public area near campus and some students went there throughout the day to talk to group members, he said. The school also provided the group with drinks and snacks, he said.

The original article is available on The Houston Chronicle website:
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/6084350.html

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "Gay activists conduct vigil at Fort Worth’s Baptist seminary"

Gay activists conduct vigil at Fort Worth’s Baptist seminary

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By Terry Lee Goodrich, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH — About 30 gay-rights advocates lined Seminary Drive outside Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s entrance Monday after a private meeting with seminary representatives, saying they hope that the dialogue was a first step in wiping out discrimination.

Two members of the Soulforce Q Equality Ride, which has been on a national bus tour of faith-based colleges and seminaries this month, stood with their mouths taped inside a clear plastic structure they held upright.

The structure was symbolic of a "glass closet," said Caitlyn MacIntyre, director of the 17-person group. She said some gay and lesbian students at Southwestern used that term to describe their feeling that "they cannot speak about who they are."

The riders were gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and straight people.

Across Seminary Drive, a few community members held signs to show their opposition to homosexuality.

Bill Bool of Fort Worth said the "sole issue is Christ and that we’ve all sinned. God never intended homosexuality.  . . . If a person receives Christ, there is going to be a change."

During the hourlong private meeting, seminary representatives used Scripture to explain their stance on faith and sexuality, Southwestern officials said.

"There’s a difference of opinion, but it was a cordial and kind dialogue," said Thomas White, the seminary’s vice president for student services and communications.

During Soulforce’s presentation, they likened the seminary’s stance against homosexuality to its discrimination against African-Americans in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2004, Southwestern President Paige Patterson apologized at a commencement to a 100-year-old black man and awarded him an overdue master’s degree he had earned at Southwestern decades ago.

During the private meeting, MacIntyre said, Soulforce members asked, "How long do we have to wait for it to be made right for us?"

Another gay-rights advocate at the meeting was Lauren Parke, a graduate of Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.

"I went to the front of the room and opened my Bible and said I’d like to share the words of Jesus" about homosexuality, she said. She flipped through the pages of the four Gospels in silence for seven minutes because, she said, Jesus said nothing against homosexuality.

Among those who turned out to support the riders was Liz Cumpton, 20, a religion major at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

"This is very important to me, because I’m planning on going into the ministry for the Methodist church, and I’ve had friends kicked out of faith-based universities based on their sexuality," she said.

White said that when students apply for admission to the seminary, they sign a document that they will abide by the seminary’s code of conduct.

He said that the Bible condemns all forms of sexual immorality — including adultery, lust and homosexuality — but that it also offers hope of forgiveness to those willing to repent.

Seminary representatives, among them students, faculty, staff and administrators, "acted out our beliefs by considerately sharing the Gospel," but "our position remains unchanged," White said.

The original article is available on The Fort Worth Star-Telegram website:
http://www.star-telegram.com/metro_news/story/1001185.html

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

(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

Equality Riders to Return to Clinton, Miss., Site of Police Harassment and Intimidation in 2007

Young Adults Tour Christian Colleges to Advocate Safety and Inclusion for All Students

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: October 14, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, 
Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138 Email: caitlin@equalityride.com
******************************************

What: On October 19 and 20, the Soulforce Q Equality Ride, a six-week bus tour to faith-based colleges, will bring a message of safety and inclusion to Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss. The Equality Ride promotes safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).

When the Equality Ride visited Mississippi College in 2007, Clinton police issued a written warning that Riders would be arrested for congregating in groups of four or more near the campus. The ACLU of Mississippi intervened, and the Clinton police withdrew the unconstitutional restrictions on First Amendment rights.

However, as the young adult Equality Riders attempted to depart from 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." Leaders of six national equality organizations wrote a letter of protest to Mayor Aultman of Clinton.

Why: More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. At Mississippi College the student handbook states, "sexual impropriety includes but is not limited to participation in or appearance of engaging in premarital sex, extramarital sex or homosexual activities."

Equality Riders have been in contact with several students on campus, including one who feels that coming out on campus is not possible for her. She has stated that she fears the repercussions of coming out and the reactions of her peers and administration.

When: Sunday, October 19, 2008
8:00 pm, Candlelight vigil

Monday, October 20, 2008
9:00 am, Vigil
1:00 pm, Equality Ride attempts to go on campus

Where: Vigil will take place on College Street across from the Aven Arts Building (same as last year).

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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Lynchburg News & Advance, "Gay activist group debates homosexuality at Liberty University"

Gay activist group debates homosexuality at Liberty University

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
By Christa Desrets, Lynchburg News & Advance

The dialogue began slowly.

Five members of the gay activist group Soulforce held hands Wednesday afternoon and stood to face about 50 Liberty University students behind the school’s DeMoss Hall in Lynchburg.

They had just returned from donating five gay-affirming Christian books to the school’s library, and Caitlin MacIntyre invited onlookers to join them in singing “Amazing Grace.”

“No thanks,” one student said.

Across the sidewalk, students paged through Bibles as the hymn’s familiar first verse filled the air.

Liberty student Lawanda Sowell said she was searching for passages to describe her belief that homosexuality is a sin.

“They believe in what they believe because they are blind,” she said.

The song ended, and the two groups stood opposite each other with two different opinions on how to interpret the role of homosexuality and the definition of marriage in the Bible.

Liberty was the first of 15 planned stops at faith-based institutions on Soulforce’s annual Equality Ride, a national bus tour meant to encourage an inviting environment for any on-campus gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students.

“Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘homosexuality is sin,’” said Soulforce member Nicholas Rocco DeFinis.

Liberty student Steven Mosley disagreed.

“This is never affirmed in the Bible, ever,” he countered. “You should not be living like this.”

Soulforce member Danielle Cooper said many things have changed since the days of Jesus.

“Marriage, in terms of how we see it, has come a long, long way,” she said.

Although they disagreed, dialogue was exactly what Soulforce had hoped for, said Jarrett Lucas.

“It has to be open and it has to be honest,” he said. “Ideally, we come together and understand each other before the end of the day — or however long it takes.”

Earlier this week, Liberty officials had said they would not allow the group on campus. When Soulforce members came to the school in 2006, more than 20 were arrested on charges of trespassing after walking onto school property.

“It wasn’t our intention to tell them ahead of time to come on campus,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said Wednesday. “In fact, we told them they couldn’t. But they didn’t cause any incidents, so we didn’t arrest anybody.”

“Most students believe, like my father did, that you should love the sinner, hate the sin, show compassion and try to be a good witness. So that’s what I think our students did today.”

Capt. Al Thomas with the Lynchburg Police Department monitored the assembly from off campus and said the day was incident-free.

In the past couple of weeks, he has facilitated conversations between Soulforce and Liberty as the activist group planned for the event.

“They assured us that this would be a peaceful, nonviolent assembly, and I think that has gone according to plan,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

Liberty junior Erika Green said she was happy to have the chance to speak with the group.

“We’re supposed to love everyone, so it would be wrong to turn them away,” she said.

Katie Higgins, co-director of the Equality Ride, said the group had been in contact with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students at Liberty who felt that the school community promoted discrimination against them.

Falwell said the school’s code of conduct does not prohibit homosexuality, but it does forbid sexual activity outside of marriage.

“And in order for there to be a marriage in Virginia, it has to be between a man and a woman,” he said earlier this week.

As for the donated books, he said, “Somebody brought them up to my office today, and we have a committee that will decide whether to make them a part of the collection or not.”

After more than an hour of discussion, Soulforce members walked back to their bus and a dozen other Equality Riders who rallied from just outside of campus. Many students joined them. The group is in town until Sunday, and plans a discussion on the role of homosexuality in Christianity today at 11 a.m. at the Starbucks on Wards Road.

Wednesday’s dialogue had begun slowly, but continued as clusters formed here and there along University Boulevard.

Bill Carpenter, director of national actions for Soulforce, looked on with interest.

“We’re just beginning the adventure for this year,” he said.

 

The original article is available on the Lynchburg News & Advance website:
http://www.newsadvance.com/lna/news/local/article/gay_activist_group_debates_homosexuality_at_liberty_university/8984/