Riders Arrested at Central Baptist College in Arkansas

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

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 4, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
******************************************

(Conway, AR) — Yesterday, the Equality Ride, a youth-organized bus tour that travels to faith-based universities to create a dialogue about faith and fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, visited Central Baptist College. Upon their arrival, Riders were met by President Kimbrow, who informed Riders that they were not permitted onto campus and that they would be arrested for trespassing if they proceeded. Riders remained in vigil outside of CBC property as members of the community joined them in front of the school.

At 11:00, four Riders who hoped to speak to the students who were gathered on campus property were arrested for trespassing. The Riders were Lauren Parke of Seattle, WA; Alex Lundy of Syosset, NY; Katie Higgins of Minneapolis, MN; and Enzi Tanner of Minneapolis, MN. They were released this afternoon after posting bail.

"It is unfortunate that the school chose to deny us the opportunity to create dialogue on campus. We feel that the message of safety and inclusion for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender is too important to be limited by property lines," Alex Lundy, one of the arrested Riders and the organizer of the Central Baptist stop explains.

Following the arrests, students started approaching the Equality Riders to begin discussions. Numerous students remained in conversations with Riders about religion, gender, and sexuality for the remainder of the day. The Equality Riders were joined by students from nearby Hendrix College and by Arkansas residents Bob and Mary Lou Wallner, who are featured in the film For the Bible Tells Me So.

"We tried to get students to understand our shared humanity and realize the oppression and pain that students on their campus are facing because of the policies and beliefs of Central Baptist College. Through building relationships, we hope to create an environment of discussion that continues after the Equality Ride has left campus," says Katie Higgins, Equality Ride co-director.

The Equality Ride plans to return to campus on Friday, when the Baptist Missionionary Association will be meeting on campus, to have a vigil at Central Baptist in hopes of engaging some leadership in the organization about the damaging effects of religious oppression.

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

Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, 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.com.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Four gay-rights activists arrested at Baptist college"

Four gay-rights activists arrested at Baptist college

Tuesday, November 4, 2008
By Heather Hahn, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

CONWAY — Four gay-rights activists were arrested Monday afternoon immediately after they set foot on the Central Baptist College campus.

As Conway police handcuffed three women and one man, their fellow activists remained on the public sidewalk and sang the Christian camp song that begins, “Love, love, love, love, Christians, this is your call.” The 17 activists were all members of Soulforce Q, a group that seeks what it describes as equal treatment for gay students. The group visited the small Conway campus of about 500 students as part of its third annual Equality Ride, a national bus tour of conservative Christian colleges and universities.

“I think it’s unfortunate that they intentionally went to jail to make a point,” Terry Kimbrow, Central Baptist’s president, said after the arrests.

“What they are espousing is opposed to our beliefs. That’s why I denied having them on campus.” Kimbrow had asked the Conway police to help with security. When the Equality Riders arrived around noon, Kimbrow announced that they would be arrested if they stepped off the sidewalk and onto the campus. Conway police officers stood around the campus perimeter.

For about an hour, the riders stood on the sidewalk as instructed. Central Baptist students gathered on the lawn to watch. A few went to talk to the Equality Riders. Also standing with the Equality Riders were some students from nearby University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College who had come to show moral support.

After the arrests, some activists stayed on the sidewalk and talked to students who approached. Some students debated Bible passages on sexuality with the activists. Others questioned whether they needed to violate the law to get their message across.

“A lot of what we do is symbolic,” said Jarrett Lucas, co-director of the ride. “We do have a very real conversation to bring and we want that genuine exchange, that genuine dialogue. But at the same time, I think it’s really important to see that we face very real rejection from the followers of Christ.” Drew Hanna, a Central Baptist junior from Russellville, was talking to some of those arrested just before they stepped on campus.

“I feel blown off,” Hanna said. “I feel like they don’t really care that much. Because if they really cared, they would have tried to stay and talk to me. They say they want dialogue. But then they walk away to get arrested.” Central Baptist, which is affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas, was the first stop for the group in the state.

On Wednesday, the group plans to visit Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. The Southern Baptist-affiliated school, which has about 1, 470 students, also declined the Equality Riders’ request to come on campus. But with the expectation that the group will come anyway, university officials have designated an area on campus for the group to gather.

The three women arrested were Katie Higgins of Minneapolis; Alex Lundy of Syosset, N. Y.; and Lauren Parke of Seattle. Also arrested was Enzi Tanner of Minneapolis. They were all released about two and a half hours later after each paying $ 200 bond on charges of criminal trespass. Private donations help pay for the group’s fines.

Several Central Baptist students said the visit had no impact on their views. They still viewed homosexual acts as sinful.

Higgins, the co-director of the ride, said being arrested was worth it for the conversations it fostered with Central Baptist students. Three Central Baptist students joined the group for dinner that night at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant.

Sally Roberson, a sophomore from Searcy, said she expected the group to be disruptive, but she didn’t think they were.

“I didn’t want them on campus because I thought they were trying to push their beliefs on us,” Roberson said. “Then when they got here, they weren’t trying to push something. They were just trying to make us understand that God loves everybody, and we should accept them.”

The original article is available on The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette website:
http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/242518/

‘N Touch News Network, "Equality Ride Faces Vandalism and Intimidation"

Equality Ride Faces Vandalism and Intimidation

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Uncredited, ‘N Touch News Network

West Palm Beach, FL—Just hours ago, sixteen young adults arrived at the DeSantis Family Chapel on the campus of  Palm Beach Atlantic University. The Equality Riders were immediately restricted to the far side of the sidewalk and were greeted by an organized group of parents. During the conversations that ensued, a few students did join the group and one came out as a lesbian who is in her first year at PBAU. She was able to speak firsthand about the lack of safety that is provided for her as a lesbian on campus, which affirms Soulforce Q’s reasons for visiting the Christian school.

At 11:00 am EST, the sixteen Equality Riders walked to the DeSantis Family Chapel doors and were confronted by city police at the doors. School officials read a statement that barred the young adults from participating in the worship service with the students with whom they had been talking. A similar statement followed from the West Palm Beach Police Department. Inspired by the conversations that they had with students during a picnic hosted by the Equality Ride on Sunday, the Riders moved forward with good faith that they would be allowed into Chapel.

As ten of the Riders were turned away, six remained and were arrested, one by one. Those arrested were Jarrett Lucas, 22, from Philadelphia, Danielle Cooper, 19, from Maplewood, NJ, Lauren Parke, 25, from Seattle, Enzi Tanner, 24, from Minneapolis, Nicholas Rocco DeFinis, 22, from Lansdale, PA, and Zak Rittenhouse, 21, from Frankfort, OH. Students looked on as the young adults were placed in handcuffs and moved into a police van.

The remaining Equality Riders are still standing vigil and speaking with students on the corner of S. Olive Avenue and Okeechobee Road. They will remain there until 4:00 pm EST. The arrested young adults are scheduled to go before a magistrate Tuesday morning.

Today’s visit to PBAU comes after a night of harassment for participants of the Equality Ride. Sunday evening, the glass door of the bus was bashed in with a hard object. Two panes of glass were shattered and small portions of the vinyl wrap were scratched off. A police report of the incident was filed.

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 original article is available on the ‘N Touch News website:
http://www.ntouchaz.com/artman2/publish/index/EQUALITY_RIDE_FACES_VANDALISM_AND_INTIMIDATION.shtml

The Advocate, "Six Arrested on Equality Ride"

Six Arrested on Equality Ride

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Michelle Garcia, The Advocate

Six young adults on an LGBT-awareness campaign were arrested when they attempted to walk into the DeSantis Family Chapel at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.

College administrators allowed Equality Riders from the religious tolerance organization Soulforce to visit campus for a private meeting at 9:30 a.m., but riders said the conditions were too restrictive. A group of parents greeted the riders, who were relegated to a part of the sidewalk on campus near the chapel. Some students later joined the group, and one female student came out as a lesbian, according to a press release. She told the group that the university lacks specific safeguards for LGBT students.

Six of the 16 riders on the trip attempted to enter 11 a.m. chapel service, but university police stopped them from entering.

"You are an unwanted guest," campus security director Terry Wheeler said to riders, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "We have asked the police department to enforce the trespassing law,"

The arrested riders were Jarrett Lucas, Enzi Tanner, Nicholas Rocco DeFinis, Lauren Parke, Zak Rittenhouse, and Danielle Cooper, ranging in age from 19 to 25. They will face a magistrate Tuesday morning.

The remaining Equality Riders held a vigil near the college through Monday afternoon.

The arrests took place after the Equality Ride bus was damaged Sunday night. The windows were smashed in, shattering two panes of glass, and small portions of the vinyl wrap were also scratched off.

The original article is available on The Advocate website:
http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid63651.asp

365 Gay News, "Gay rights activists arrested at Florida college"

Gay rights activists arrested at Florida college

Monday, October 13, 2008
By 365gay Newscenter Staff, 365 Gay News

West Palm Beach, Florida—Six members of the nondenominational Soulforce Equality Ride were arrested Monday when they attempted to enter the chapel at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

More than a dozen LGBT young adults and their allies are visiting 15 Christian schools throughout the South to engage students in a discussion on gay inclusion.

The six “riders” ignored warnings they would be arrested if they did not leave the campus.  They offered no resistance as police led them away.

This is the third year for the Equality Ride. Unlike previous years, “riders” were not obstructed as they spoke with students at Liberty University and Columbia International.

Initially, Palm Beach Atlantic officials completely refused to allow Equality Riders on campus. The school then suggested a limited meeting.

President David W. Clark’s office told the group that “riders” would be escorted onto campus for a two hour meeting with a pre-selected group of students and staff in an undisclosed location.

It was rejected by Equality Ride.

“Unfortunately, this format is not conducive to reaching out to the Palm Beach Atlantic community in the spirit of open dialogue. Additionally, the LGBT students who need to hear the Ride’s message of love and affirmation would not be reached in this format,” the group said in a statement.

More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against LGBT students.

At Palm Beach Atlantic the student handbook forbids, “sexual activity that is inconsistent with biblical teaching, such as: … homosexual behavior.”

Violators can be punished at the discretion of the university administration.

“[This leads] to a climate of fear and uncertainty for gay and transgender students,” Equality Ride said.

In a statement the university said it “does not ban enrollment of students with same sex orientation. Although Palm Beach Atlantic welcomes students from various backgrounds, the University does require that all students adhere to the behavioral standards outlined in the student handbook, which prohibits activities that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible.”

As the six protesters were being removed from the campus by police and charged with trespassing, other members of the group held hands and prayed.

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.

But the bus tour often has been met with opposition from schools and resulted in the arrests of some Soulforce members.

Two members of the group were arrested last year at the headquarters of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.

About 20 demonstrators held a vigil outside the headquarters, quoting from some of the FOF statements that homosexuality is “choice” and can be “cured,” that homosexuality is harmful, that gays live shorter lives, and that same-sex relationships threaten opposite-sex marriage.

Following the vigil, two protesters entered the headquarters building. Chris Hubble and Leigh Lyon, armed with two dozen yellow roses for Dobson and copies of the Soulforce booklet “A False Focus on My Family” and a DVD letter titled “Dear Dr. Dobson,” asked to see the conservative Christian leader.

When they refused to leave they were arrested.

Ten other riders were arrested on trespassing charges after they entered the Bethany Lutheran College campus in Mankato, Minn.

In 2006, 24 Soulforce demonstrators were arrested at a gay “die-in” at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Three others were arrested at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, other were arrested at Covenant College in Georgia, University of Cumberlands and at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky,

Soulforce members also were arrested at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, West Point, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia which is affiliated with Christian Broadcaster Pat Robertson.

The organizers of the Equality Ride said they 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 original article is available on the 365 Gay News website:
http://www.365gay.com/news/gay-rights-activists-arrested-at-florida-college/

Equality Ride Faces Vandalism, Arrests at Palm Beach

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 13, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

(West Palm Beach, FL)– Just hours ago, sixteen young adults arrived at the DeSantis Family Chapel on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University. The Equality Riders were immediately restricted to the far side of the sidewalk and were greeted by an organized group of parents. During the conversations that ensued, a few students did join the group and one came out as a lesbian who is in her first year at PBAU. She was able to speak firsthand about the lack of safety for gay and lesbian students on campus, which affirms Soulforce Q’s reasons for visiting the Christian school: to talk about safety and inclusion for all.

At 11:00 am EST, the sixteen Equality Riders walked to the DeSantis Family Chapel doors and were confronted by city police at the doors. School officials read a statement that barred the young adults from participating in the worship service with the students with whom they had been talking. A similar statement followed from the West Palm Beach Police Department. Inspired by the conversations that they had with students during a picnic hosted by the Equality Ride on Sunday, the Riders moved forward with good faith that they would be allowed into Chapel.

As ten of the Riders were turned away, six remained and were arrested, one by one. Those arrested were Jarrett Lucas, 22, from Philadelphia, Danielle Cooper, 19, from Maplewood, NJ, Lauren Parke, 25, from Seattle, Enzi Tanner, 24, from Minneapolis, Nicholas Rocco DeFinis, 22, from Lansdale, PA, and Zak Rittenhouse, 21, from Frankfort, OH. Students looked on as the young adults were placed in handcuffs and moved into a police van.

The remaining Equality Riders are still standing vigil and speaking with students on the corner of S. Olive Avenue and Okeechobee Road. They will remain there until 4:00 pm EST. The arrested young adults are scheduled to go before a magistrate Tuesday morning.

Today’s visit to PBAU comes after a night of harassment for participants of the Equality Ride. Sunday evening, the glass door of the bus was bashed in with a hard object. Two panes of glass were shattered and small portions of the vinyl wrap were scratched off. A police report of the incident was filed.

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.

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 Associated Press, "6 people arrested on university campus"

6 people arrested on university campus

Monday, October 13, 2008
Uncredited, The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Six members of a gay rights group were arrested in West Palm Beach after they tried to attend a chapel service at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

The students, who are members of a group called Soulforce Q, were arrested Monday for trespassing. University officials had wanted to meet with the group privately, but group members refused the university’s request to meet with select students and faculty. They said it would defeat their mission of reaching gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

The group reported that this weekend two panes of glass on the bus they were traveling in were smashed.

Soulforce is touring 15 schools in the South. Palm Beach Atlantic is the only Florida school on the tour.

The original article is available on the Miami Herald website:
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/florida/AP/story/724609.html

Riders Connect with Columbia International Students, Despite Official Surveillance

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 7, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

(Columbia, SC)– Yesterday, 17 young adults arriving on the campus of Columbia International University (CIU) were met with police tape and barriers. The young people were members of the Equality Ride, a national bus tour of Christian campuses, which aims to promote dialogue about fairness and safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. CIU administrators cordoned off a small area near the road for Equality Riders to speak with students.

"The sense of limitation, of being told that our voices were only allowed to carry so far, was so much like what lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students face at Columbia International everyday," Enzi Tanner, an Equality Rider from Minneapolis explains. "We wanted to be present for all the students, including those who were too afraid to cross the barrier the university had constructed."

Columbia International University’s official policy is that "homosexual behavior" is sinful. The climate on campus is one of judgment and fear for LGBT students. More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against LGBT students, and a 2003 survey of 14 American universities found that more than a third of all LGBT undergraduates had experienced harassment in the past year.

Administrators and faculty were present at all phases of conversation and presided over the dialogue. Yet despite the official surveillance, approximately 50 students exchanged views and experiences with the Equality Riders.

At 2:00 PM, students and Riders gathered together in a circle to thank each other for the time they were able to share through singing, prayer, and reflection. As the circle broke andRiders began to form small groups with students once again, police cars pulled directly up to the barriers and CIU officials told Riders that they must immediately evacuate the area and move to the road side to await the arrival of their bus.

"It was our intention to continue talking with students in the designated area, since, to our knowledge, time limits had not been placed on our presence," said Katie Higgins of Goose Creek, SC, and co-director of the Equality Ride. "An uncomfortable situation was made worse when we were pushed out to the side of the road while the students were still with us. "

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.

Today the Equality Riders will visit with students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia before moving on to Atlanta, where they will visit Morehouse College and Spelman College. Both Morehouse and Spelman are welcoming the Equality Riders and approaching safety and inclusion for LGBT students as an important part of student life.

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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.