Equality Ride Bus Rolls to a Stop, But Change Keeps Coming

Third Annual Tour of Christian Colleges Empowers LGBT Students
$25,000 Still Needed

******************************************
SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: November 20, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

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

(Laurel, MD) The third annual Soulforce Q Equality Ride is coming to a close this week with a de-briefing in Laurel, Maryland. For the past six weeks, these extraordinary lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and straight young adults have brought their message of inclusion and safety to 15 faith-based schools throughout the South.

Although the bus tour has ended, the work of fostering safe learning environments for LGBT students is just beginning. Students and faculty, empowered by the Equality Ride, will now take on the work of organizing gay/straight alliances and safe spaces for LGBT students. Some will advocate for the re-examination of antigay policies that are inconsistent with Christian principles. The Equality Riders will stay in touch and provide on-going guidance and support.

Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited 65 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking part in worship services and Bible studies. Often, the Equality Riders are the first LGBT-affirming voices to be heard on campuses with official policies that discriminate against gay and transgender students.

The impact of the Equality Ride on individual lives is immeasurable, but there are some measurable indicators of the Ride’s success. Since the project’s inception, Riders have contributed to:

  • 17 new or revived gay/straight alliances
  • 6 new faculty-led safe spaces
  • 2 positive policy changes (at Samford University and Brigham Young University)

Highlights and Lowpoints of the Third Annual Equality Ride

September 23, 2008: The Soulforce issues an emergency appeal for donations to get the bus on the road despite difficult economic times.

October 1, 2008: Liberty University, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell, opens the campus for free discussions between Equality Riders and Liberty students.

October 10-11, 2008: Students and administrators at Morehouse College and Spelman College collaborate with Equality Riders to create 2-days of LGBT-affirming programming. These successful events mark the Equality Ride’s first visits to historically black colleges.

October 12, 2008: The Equality Ride bus is vandalized in West Palm Beach, Florida. Bus driver Dondi Penn, a straight ally, is targeted with homophobic slurs.

October 24, 2008: The Equality Ride and Dallas Baptist University hold a joint press conference before an unprecedented day of discussions with faculty, administrators, and students about safety for LGBT students.

November 11, 2008: Equality Riders are physically barred from a public concert at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee.

November 14, 2008: The Equality Ride bus rolls to a stop in Laurel, Maryland for a week of debriefing and follow-up with schools from the route. Although the official part of the Ride is over, the Riders must still raise $25,000 to cover the bills for this important work.

"This year, and every year, the Equality Ride’s greatest impact is in the one-on-one connections we make, both on and off the bus," said Jarrett Lucas, Equality Ride Co-director. "Building those relationships pushes us to challenge misinformation about our differences and question prejudices. Then we leave the Ride and manifest those lessons in our everyday lives. That empowerment is the heartbeat of social justice. That empowerment is our success."

To interview an Equality Rider from your city or state about the experience of the 2008 Ride, contact Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director, or visit our "Meet the Riders" page: https://soulforceactionarchives.org/2008riders

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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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

Riders Arrested Attempting to Attend Chapel at Southwestern Assemblies of God Univ.

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 29, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
******************************************

(Waxahachie, TX) — Today, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) pressed trespassing charges against three young adults who entered the campus to begin a dialogue about faith and fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The young people were members of the Equality Ride, a national bus tour that promotes safety and inclusion for all students on faith-based campuses.

Upon arriving at SAGU, all 16 of the Equality Riders tried to attend chapel services on campus. However, they were stopped by security who told Riders that they would not be allowed to participate in worship. Riders were escorted by guards to a parking lot on the periphery of campus. As Riders got off the bus, they were promptly met by a campus spokesperson who provided an official warning not to come onto the campus property. Once more, Equality Riders expressed their desire to join students in chapel, and were told that was not possible. Three Equality Riders, all of whom identify as Christian, moved forward anyway and were summarily arrested. The three Riders arrested were Manny Lampon, 22, of New York, NY; Zak Rittenhouse, 21, of Frankfurt, OH; and Nicholas Rocco DeFinis, 22, of Philadelphia, PA.

Equality Riders remained at the edge of campus in silent vigil until the Dean of Students, Scott Camp, began to address them. He was soon joined by student leadership and some university staff. Camp led the group in prayer in which he expressed the hope that "the love of Christ would be felt in this circle." In actuality, Equality Riders were forced to remain standing along the boundary that administrators had created while members of the SAGU community gathered freely on the other side.

"It was important for us to acknowledge that there had been a clear line drawn, one that divided Riders from Southwestern representatives. Our hope was that for one day we could erase that line and come together for a genuine and transformational exchange," said Jarrett Lucas, Co-director of the Equality Ride.

Camp indicated that he could understand the feelings of exclusion experienced by Equality Riders, but insisted there was no alternative to the setup, repeatedly saying, "This is where we’re at." Unfortunately, very soon after the conversation had begun Riders were told that it was time to wind down. Then, most of the people from SAGU walked away, leaving Riders outside.

Riders will stand vigil throughout the day on Sycamore Street in hopes of continuing dialogue with students. In addition, they are trying to organize an off-campus event where students can feel comfortable discussing issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

"It’s sad to see that Southwestern Assemblies of God University did not welcome us as other schools here in Texas have. In our experience we’ve seen the value of open discourse and hope that in the future SAGU will embrace the opportunity to allow an affirming voice on campus," shared Katie Higgins, Co-director of the Equality Ride. The Riders recently met with faculty and students at Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Equality Ride bus is on the road through November 13, 2008. Future stops include:

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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Equality Ride Connects Faith and Fairness at 2 Baptist Schools

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 28, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
******************************************

(Dallas, TX) — This week, the Soulforce Equality Ride brought unprecedented conversations about faith and fairness to two Baptist institutions: Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The quality of dialogue and exchange at each school demonstrates the diverse and changing nature of contemporary evangelical cultures.

The Equality Ride is a national bus tour to Christian colleges. The 18 to 26-year-old Equality Riders advocate safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

On Friday, October 24, the Soulforce Q Equality Riders arrived at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) as guests for a day of dialogue and discussion about faith and fairness. During a press conference preceding scheduled events, Dr. J. Blair Blackburn, Executive Vice President of DBU, said that although "DBU’s established beliefs may not coincide with the viewpoints of Soulforce on these issues, we understand anyone’s right to disagree and their desire for an opportunity to discuss." Katie Higgins, Equality Ride Co-director, explained the necessity of such conversations to ensure safety and fairness for all students.

Riders joined DBU faculty and administration for lunch and conversation before presentations to student leadership on campus.

"The students had such great ideas about how to get involved and be advocates for their gay and transgender peers. I hope that some of them will take those ideas and begin to form a support system for LGBT students on campus," said Equality Rider Alex Lundy.

Dialogue with student leaders continued as Riders were able to sit down with them and discuss their ideas and perceptions about faith, sexuality, and gender. Riders briefly shared their stories and then discussed what safe spaces look like for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and how students can facilitate these environments.

In a debriefing session with Equality Riders and DBU administrators, Riders explained their concerns about the DBU policy and discussed ways the campus could be safer. Administration shared their personal experiences and told Riders that the dialogue would continue.

"I think that the administration is genuinely interested in ensuring that gay and transgender students feel safe and fully accepted as members of the DBU community. Hopefully we can work with them in establishing fair and inclusive policies, which will help create a more welcoming campus climate," said Ride Co-director Jarrett Lucas.

In contrast, on Monday October 27th, Equality Riders traveled to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) for a limited and formal exchange of ideas.

Riders went onto campus at 2:00 PM for a meeting attended by a cross-section of individuals selected by the university, which included students, faculty, staff, and two of the university’s vice presidents. Soulforce Q Equality Riders showed a brief video from the SWBTS website in which President Paige Patterson apologizes to an African American alumnus for the oppression he faced as a student in 1943 when Southwestern was still racially segregated.

Following this video, Equality Riders shared two letters from gay SWBTS alumni detailing their experiences and the pain of being unable to live authentically on a campus that punishes gay and lesbian students. One writer revealed that "stress and suicidal thoughts forced [him] to drop out." In conclusion, the Riders reflected on the lack of condemnation from Jesus regarding gay and transgender people.

Equality Rider Danielle Cooper of Newark, New Jersey explains, "We had twenty five minutes and during that time we wanted the representatives from Southwestern Baptist to see our humanity. We wanted them to understand the pain and oppression lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face as a result of beliefs that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary holds. How long will we have to wait until President Patterson recognizes that the convention is wrong on the issue of gay and transgender individuals as well?"

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary began by introducing a community member who was not officially affiliated with Southwestern but was a "friend" of SWBTS. He told those present that he was once a gay man but was no longer considered himself a part of the community. He shared his belief that "Jesus Christ doesn’t speak tolerance. It’s a very narrow-minded Word." Following this personal story, a faculty member in the Ethics department rehearsed the Biblical passages that are often used to condemn gay and lesbian people.

Afterwards Riders and community supporters stood in silent vigil outside of the University for two hours. Some Equality Riders stood silently in a "glass closet" constructed as a visual reminder of LGBT students who are present on campus but unable to be heard. Zak Rittenhouse, one of the Riders who stood vigil within the "glass closet" reflected on his own experience: "While in the glass closet, I was reminded once again of what it was like to be silenced and to live in fear."

Riders remained in vigil until 5:30 PM along W. Seminary Drive to offer a visible symbol of hope to LGBT students as well as to demonstrate to the SWBTS community at large the pain of being gay or transgender on the campus.

Katie Higgins, Equality Ride co-director explains that, "Although the situations at Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were quite different, both were certainly important first steps in creating a dialogue about faith and fairness on these campuses. I hope that the schools will continue to challenge their perceptions and work towards becoming safer learning environments for all students."

The Equality Ride bus is on the road through November 13, 2008. Future stops include:

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.

###

Dallas Baptist University

Name: Dallas Baptist University
Location: Dallas, TX
Religious Affiliation: Baptist
Enrollment: 5,244
Website: http://www.dbu.edu/
Accreditation:
Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Concerning GLBT Equality:

The Dallas baptist University 2008-09 Student Handbook contains the following:

Affirmations and Denials

8.We affirm the family, as instituted by God, as the foundation of all civilized
society. The family, as instituted by God is created by the unbreakable union
of one man to one woman in covenant together. To this God may add the
blessing of children. It is the solemn responsibility of parents to rear their
children according to biblical principles and pray for their salvation. We
affirm the biblical teaching of the roles of husband and wife in the family as
rooted in the order of creation and not in temporary cultural conditions. We
further recognize that, living in a broken world involves ministry to broken
families with forgiveness and healing. We deny any teaching that would
excuse sexual promiscuity, adultery, spousal abuse, abortion, or any kind of
homosexual acts or unions as contrary to the express teachings of the Bible
and contrary to the historic faith of the Christian community in all past ages.

The entire policy can be seen in the Simmons College of Kentucky Student Handbook, which can be viewed here.

Press Release Newswire, "Soulforce Equality Ride to Visit Three Texas Christian Campuses"

Soulforce Equality Ride to Visit Three Texas Christian Campuses

The Equality Ride, a national bus tour of Christian campuses, will visit Dallas Baptist University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southwestern Assemblies of God University to advocate safety and fairness for gay and transgender Students.

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) October 22, 2008 — On October 24-29, the third annual Soulforce Equality Ride, a national bus tour to faith-based colleges, will bring a message of inclusion and safety to three area schools: Dallas Baptist University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie. The Equality Ride advocates safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).

The schools’ responses to the Ride demonstrate the diversity of contemporary evangelical cultures. Dallas Baptist University (DBU) is collaborating with the Equality Ride to create a full day of dialogue with faculty, students, and administrators. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) has offered the Riders time to make a presentation about faith and fairness. In contrast, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) has informed the Equality Riders that they are unwelcome on campus and has refused further communication. The third annual Equality Ride comes to Texas at a moment when research suggests that young white evangelicals are diverging from previous generations on social justice issues. A September 2008 poll commissioned by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly found that 58% of 18-29 year old white evangelicals "support some form of legal recognition of civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples; a quarter (26%) support the full right for same-sex couples to marry."

However, in spite of these indications that significant numbers of 18-29 year olds support equality, more than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against LGBT students. The DBU student handbook expressly prohibits "student organizations which are homosexual/bisexual in nature." Southwest Baptist lists " homosexual behavior" as grounds for unspecified disciplinary action. The SAGU student handbook lists "homosexuality" and "lesbianism" as grounds for disciplinary action, including "termination from the university."

"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. "When students can be punished just because of who they are, it’s very difficult for them to speak up about their quality of life on campus. That’s where we come in. We can speak up for a community where everyone can learn without fear."

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 more than 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.

Equality Riders invite students at all three schools, as well as members of the Dallas/Fort Worth community, to a community gathering on Saturday the 25th at Reverchon Park in Dallas.

The young adult 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.

PRELIMINARY SCHEDULE FOR WEEK OF 10/24-10/27

Dallas Baptist University

Friday, October 24th, 2008

    11:30 am, Press conference outside DBU

    12:00 noon, Riders enter campus

DFW/Equality Ride Community Gathering

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

    2:00 pm, at Reverchon Park in Dallas

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Monday, October 27, 2008

    2:00 pm, Equality Riders are escorted onto campus

    3:30-5:30 pm, Vigil on the edge of 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 through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.com.

The original article is available on the Press Release Newswire website:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/10/prweb1499624.htm

Equality Ride to Visit Three Texas Colleges

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 20, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
******************************************

(Dallas, TX) On October 24-29, the third annual Soulforce Equality Ride, a national bus tour to faith-based colleges, will bring a message of inclusion and safety to three area schools: Dallas Baptist University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie. The Equality Ride advocates safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).

The schools’ responses to the Ride demonstrate the diversity of contemporary evangelical cultures. Dallas Baptist University (DBU) is collaborating with the Equality Ride to create a full day of dialogue with faculty, students, and administrators. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) has offered the Riders time to make a presentation about faith and fairness. In contrast, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) has informed the Equality Riders that they are unwelcome on campus and has refused further communication.

The third annual Equality Ride comes to Texas at a moment when research suggests that young white evangelicals are diverging from previous generations on social justice issues. A September 2008 poll commissioned by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly found that 58% of 18-29 year old white evangelicals support some form of legal recognition of civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples; a quarter (26%) support the full right for same-sex couples to marry.

However, in spite of these indications that significant numbers of 18-29 year olds support equality, more than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against LGBT students. The DBU student handbook expressly prohibits "student organizations which are homosexual/bisexual in nature." Southwest Baptist lists " homosexual behavior" as grounds for unspecified disciplinary action. The SAGU student handbook lists "homosexuality" and "lesbianism" as grounds for disciplinary action, including "termination from the university."

"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. "When students can be punished just because of who they are, it’s very difficult for them to speak up about their quality of life on campus. That’s where we come in. We can speak up for a community where everyone can learn without fear."

Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited more than 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.

Equality Riders invite students at all three schools, as well as members of the Dallas/Fort Worth community, to a community gathering on Saturday the 25th at Reverchon Park in Dallas.
The young adult 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.

PRELIMINARY SCHEDULE FOR WEEK OF 10/20-10/26

Dallas Baptist University
Friday, October 24th, 2008
11:30 am, Press conference outside DBU
12:00 noon, Riders enter campus

DFW/Equality Ride Community Gathering
Saturday, October 25th, 2008
2:00 pm, at Reverchon Park in Dallas

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

******************************************
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.
###

 

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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