Equality Riders to Visit Palm Beach Atlantic in South Florida

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

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: October 7, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, 
Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138 Email: caitlin@equalityride.com
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What: On Monday, October 13, the Soulforce Q Equality Ride, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges, will bring a message of inclusion and safety to Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA). The Equality Ride promotes safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

PBA has stated that the Equality Riders will not be permitted to enter their campus to engage students in peaceful dialogue about faith and fairness. Initially, university officials completely refused to allow Equality Riders on campus stating that the Equality Ride’s visit "would not meaningfully further the mission of either organization." After the Equality Ride’s visits to Liberty and Columbia International, Palm Beach Atlantic officials contacted Equality Ride leadership about a limited meeting. President David W. Clark’s office explained 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. 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. Therefore, Soulforce Q Equality Riders will walk on to campus as originally planned at noon in hopes of being welcomed as guests and provided an open forum for meaningful dialogue. Riders will join with members of the Palm Beach community to give a voice to all of the LGBT students who have been silenced at PBA.

Why: More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. At Palm Beach Atlantic the student handbook forbids, "sexual activity that is inconsistent with biblical teaching, such as: … homosexual behavior." Moreover, the handbook explains that "Since sexual expression is not merely physical, but deeply involves the mind, spirit and emotions, there is a need for sensitivity and caution at every level of intimacy," which further expands the ways in which administration can target LGBT students. Punitive action can be taken against LGBT people at the discretion of the university administration, leading to a climate of fear and uncertainty for gay and transgender students.

When: Monday, October 13th, 2008
10:00 am, Equality Ride arrives
12:00 pm, Equality Riders attempt to walk on to campus

Where: 901 S Flagler Dr, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Florida

Who: The 18 to 28-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 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.

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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.

LGBT EQUALITY GROUPS TEAM UP FOR 2009 ANTI-HETEROSEXISM CONFERENCE IN WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 24, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director, 512-419-0600
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(AUSTIN, TX) From November 20-22, advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality will join clergy, educators, mental health professionals and allies at the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida.  The conference offers a range of in-depth workshops and is open to everyone who seeks to challenge the harmful affects of heterosexism, reparative therapy, ex-gay ministries and other efforts to change people’s sexual orientation.

“First off, it’s important to be clear that the title of the conference is the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, not anti-heterosexual,” says Jeff Lutes, Executive Director of Soulforce and one of the organizers of the conference.  “Heterosexism is the widespread assumption that heterosexual relationships are somehow superior to same-sex relationships, which leads to all kinds of abuse and discrimination against LGBT people. We want to highlight where heterosexism seeps into the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society, and how we can begin to unravel its damaging consequences.”

Through a weekend-long series of workshops and keynote speakers, conference attendees will learn to challenge heterosexist attitudes and practices, speak out against the dangers of reparative therapy and other conversion efforts, and become strong advocates for LGBT equality.  

Keynote speakers for the conference include Dr. Sylvia Rue, Interim Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Inner Light Ministries, and Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.  Joining Soulforce as co-sponsors of the conference are Truth Wins Out, the National Black Justice Coalition, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin and Equality Florida.

The Anti-Heterosexism Conference also serves as a counterweight to the anti-gay think tank, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), which will be hosting its annual conference on the same weekend in West Palm Beach.  For years NARTH has promoted reparative or “sexual orientation conversion” therapy, claiming that LGBT people can and should change their sexual orientation. 

However, after a thorough review of the literature on conversion therapy, the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that sexual orientation is unlikely to change through therapy and adopted a resolution in August 2009 calling on mental health professionals to avoid telling clients they can change from gay to straight through “therapeutic” efforts or other treatments.  The resolution builds on an APA report from 1998, which warned that reparative therapy can lead patients to “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior,” because “therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.” 

In November, individuals and organizations from across the country will come together for the Anti-Heterosexism Conference to work through the process of moving beyond the dangers of heterosexism to a more just and equitable environment for LGBT people.  “It’s time we named the problem,” says Lutes, “and begin walking together through the solution.”

For more information on the conference, visit: https://soulforceactionarchives.org/anti-heterosexism-conference

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization dedicated to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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