Charleston City Paper, "Katie Writes in from Soulforce Bus"

Katie Writes in from Soulforce Bus

Monday, October 6, 2008
Introduction by Greg Hambrick, Charleston City Paper

We asked Katie Higgins to give us the word from the Soulforce bus after they visited Liberty University on their way to Columbia today.

    Our visit to Liberty University is an excellent example of why we do push the envelope on the college campuses that say that our voices are not allowed.  In 2005, Jerry Falwell allowed over 60 young adults from Soulforce to join students on campus.  In 2006, over 20 were arrested and this year, his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., repeatedly told the media that we would not be allowed on campus.  Obviously, we were allowed on and as always, there were many students who were eager to speak with us.  So many in fact, that we had to bring them off campus to where the rest of the Riders were.  Had we not moved forward with our intention to be on campus, we would have fallen short of our goal for LU students to have the chance to talk with us about our message of inclusion and justice.  More so than any year before, we have heard from many LU students who are LGBT and desperately need us to be a voice of reason on their campus.

    As we drive to Columbia tomorrow, I will be hoping that the folks of my home state make the right decision and allow us on campus.  Columbia International University has gone to great lengths to keep their students from speaking with us and I know this because a few have contacted us out of disappointment in their university.  That is probably the hardest thing for me to understand- What about our message is so threatening?  Is it the delivery?  We are a small group of young adults who have dedicated their lives to learning the philosophy and methods of nonviolence and we stand at a school’s gate with our Bibles and open hearts.  CIU has said that if we walk onto campus, that we would be arrested under South Carolina’s trespassing laws. I have to believe that they are better than that; I have to believe that when they see that we bring with us nothing but our own truths, we will be welcomed.  My mom is joining us on Monday and with that, I am finally ready to make my home an active part of my journey for justice.

The original article is available in the "Gay Charleston" section on the Charleston City Paper website:
http://gaycharleston.ccpblogs.com/2008/10/06/katie-writes-in-from-soulforce-bus/

Equality Ride to Visit Columbia International University

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

******************************************
SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: October 1, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

What: On October 6, the Soulforce Equality Ride, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges, will bring a message of safety and fairness to Columbia International University. Equality Riders will meet with college administrators and a small group of students off-campus and hold a vigil adjacent to campus. At the vigil, the Equality Riders will be joined by students from the University of South Carolina and local residents.

"We are happy to meet with a small group of administrators and students off campus, but we have emails from more students who are eager to talk to Equality Riders," said Katie Higgins. "We hope that Columbia International will decide to allow our discussion about faith and fairness to continue on campus."

Why: More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The Columbia International student handbook states that "homosexual behavior" is "to be avoided by members of the University community."

When: Monday, October 6, 2008 at 10:00 am

Where: 7435 Monticello Rd., Columbia, SC

Who: The 18 to 26-year-old Equality Riders are members of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of Soulforce, a national social justice organization.

Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited 50 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking 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 write to college administrators months in advance and invite them to work together to design programming that examines diverse points of view — including points of view that affirm gay and transgender 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 through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.com.

Equality Ride Returns to Liberty U. for 2008 Launch

LGBT Young Adults to Visit Faith-Based Colleges in the South
October 1-November 13, 2008

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 25, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

(Lynchburg, VA) The 2008 Equality Ride, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges, will launch with a visit to Liberty University on October 1. Seventeen lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight young adults will bring a message of inclusion and safety to the school, which was founded by the late Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr.

More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. At Liberty University, gay and lesbian students are subject to reprimands and disciplinary consequences, including ex-gay conversion counseling and expulsion.

In spite of the school’s policies, the elder Falwell allowed the Equality Riders to attend convocation and speak with students on campus in 2005. However, the Riders were threatened with arrest when they attempted to donate gay-affirming books to the Liberty University library. When the Equality Ride returned in 2006, 24 people were arrested for stepping onto campus to speak with students.

This year, under the leadership of Jerry Falwell Jr., college officials have indicated that they will not work with the Riders to plan opportunities for dialogue and exchange. But if the administration would rather not talk about safety and quality of life for LGBT students, the students themselves are another story.

"We are in contact with Liberty students who have been waiting for the Equality Ride to return. We cannot let them down," said Katie Higgins, Co-director of the Equality Ride. "We bring hope to students who fear expulsion or other sanctions just for being themselves. We tell them that God loves them just as they are, and we speak up for a community where everyone can learn without fear," Higgins continued.

Plans for the visit to Liberty University are still taking shape, but the Riders say they will use creative means to communicate with students and faculty about building inclusive faith communities. On the evening of October 1, First Christian Church of Lynchburg will host a public forum and worship service for the Riders and the community.

Soulforce has a long history with Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church, which was also founded by Falwell. Prior to coming out as a gay man in 1993, Soulforce Founder Rev. Mel White was a ghostwriter for Falwell and other prominent evangelical leaders. Soulforce was founded in 1999, when a group of 200 Soulforce volunteers participated in dialogue about love, faith, and equality with members of the Thomas Road congregation.

"Soulforce will never give up on our fundamentalist brothers and sisters," says White.

At many schools, Equality Riders host public forums, participate in panel discussions, study the Bible, and attend chapel with. The goal is to inspire conversation and empower students, faculty, and administrators to make their school safe and welcoming for 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.

Several things are new on this year’s Ride. The bus will visit more seminaries this year, including a planned stop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The Equality Ride will stop in Atlanta, where student groups at Morehouse College and Spelman College will host the Riders on campus. And this year the Equality Riders will reach out to students and community members by organizing opportunities to come together in community service.

2008 Equality Ride Route

Oct. 1 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
Oct. 6 Columbia International University Columbia, SC
Oct. 9 Morehouse College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 10 Spelman College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 13-14 Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, FL
Oct. 17 Heritage Christian University Florence, AL
Oct. 20 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
Oct. 23 Louisiana College Pineville, LA
Oct. 24 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
Oct. 27 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, TX
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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Soulforce Releases Route for 2008 Equality Ride

LGBT Young Adults to Visit Faith-Based Colleges in the South
October 2-November 13, 2008

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 9, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

(Austin, TX) Today Soulforce Q announced the route for Equality Ride 2008, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges. This fall, 17 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight young adults will bring a message of inclusion and safety to 15 schools throughout the South.

"As young people and students ourselves, we understand that it’s very difficult to learn in an environment where you don’t feel safe," said 22-year-old Jarrett Lucas, Co-director of the Equality Ride. "And students who face harassment or expulsion can’t always speak up for themselves. That’s where we come in. We can speak up for a community where everyone can learn without fear."

More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Some schools without explicit policies nevertheless foster climates where harassment of LGBT students is prevalent. A 2003 survey of 14 American universities found that more than a third of all LGBT undergraduates had experienced harassment in the past year.

Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited 50 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking 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 colleges’ responses shape the itinerary. The Equality Ride strives to visit a mix of schools that are open to collaboration and schools that are not yet willing to make a place at the table for affirming viewpoints. The 2008 Equality Ride is focused on the South, with stops from Virginia to Oklahoma and from Florida to Kentucky.

Several other things are new on this year’s Ride. The bus will visit more seminaries this year, including a planned stop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The Equality Ride will visit historically black colleges for the first time this year, with stops planned at Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Simmons College. And this year the Equality Riders will reach out to students and community members by organizing opportunities to come together in community service.

"We know that young people want to be part of the solution that heals divided communities, churches, and schools," said 26-year-old Katie Higgins, Co-director of the Equality Ride. "We’re reaching out to these schools, because we can’t heal those rifts until everyone has a place at the table."

2008 Equality Ride Route

Oct. 2-3 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
Oct. 6 Columbia International University Columbia, SC
Oct. 9 Morehouse College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 10 Spelman College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 13-14 Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, FL
Oct. 17 Heritage Christian University Florence, AL
Oct. 20 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
Oct. 23 Louisiana College Pineville, LA
Oct. 24 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
Oct. 27 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, TX
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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2008 Equality Ride Route: Columbia International University

Columbia International UniversityThe Equality Ride stop at Columbia International University is October 6, 2008.

The Equality Rider organizing the stop at Columbia International University is Enzi Tanner.

Enzi Tanner Enzi Tanner
enzi@equalityride.com

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

Register to help with the 2008 Equality Ride’s stop at Columbia International University

2008 Equality Ride Route

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2008 Equality Ride Route

Stop Date School Location
1 Oct. 1 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
2 Oct. 6 Columbia International University Columbia, SC
3 Oct. 9 Morehouse College Atlanta, GA
4 Oct. 10 Spelman College Atlanta, GA
5 Oct. 13-14 Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, FL
6 Oct. 17 Heritage Christian University Florence, AL
7 Oct. 20 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
8 Oct. 23 Louisiana College Pineville, LA
9 Oct. 24 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
10 Oct. 27 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, TX
11 Oct. 29 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX
12 Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
13 Nov. 7 Central Baptist College Conway, AR
14 Nov. 10-11 Union University Jackson, TN
15 Nov. 13 Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, KY

 

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