"Our Lives Aren’t Wrong"; OBU Students Join With Equality Riders to Deliver Message of Love

Six Young Adults Arrested; OBU Students Take Up Banner Affirming LGBT Lives

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 15, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Shawnee, Oklahoma) — Six young adults were arrested on the Oklahoma Baptist University campus today as they attempted to deliver a tapestry filled with Bible verses and affirmations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. These young men and women are participants in the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride, a national campaign to create dialogue at campuses that discriminate against LGBT students.

The Equality Riders walked on to campus with 2 students from OBU. When the Riders were arrested, the students, who asked to remain anonymous, picked up the tapestry and brought it the rest of the way to the Geiger Student Center.

"We just wanted to finish what they started," said one of the participating students. "People should know that what they’re doing isn’t wrong, that our lives aren’t wrong."

Several other members of the Oklahoma community, including current and former OBU students, helped the Equality Riders create the tapestry. Two members of the Stillwater chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Lucy Wilkes and Wilma Ramming, walked with the Riders to the edge of campus.

The OBU student handbook lists "homosexual behavior" alongside rape and incest as "forms of sexuality that deviate from the biblical standard for sexuality." The handbook identifies "mandatory counseling, probation, or departure from the University" as the disciplinary consequences of homosexual behavior.

Yesterday, 5 Equality Riders were arrested while attempting to worship at the campus chapel with OBU students. In 2006 the inaugural Equality Ride visited Oklahoma Baptist University to create discussion about school policies and their painful consequences for LGBT students. During that visit, a current OBU student spoke to the media about intimidation and harassment of students perceived to be gay or lesbian.

The Soulforce Equality Ride seeks to create a conversation with the next generation of conservative Christian leaders about the painful consequences of discrimination. The Equality Ride is a 2-month tour to 32 schools and colleges on 2 separate routes. The 50 Equality Riders include former students of conservative Christian colleges, straight allies and gay evangelical Christians.

The Equality Riders arrested today were: Casey Chandler-Alexander, Bram Wispelwey, Bronwen Tomb, Stephen Krebs, Greg Johnson, and Jarrett Lucas.


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. For more information go to www.soulforce.org or www.equalityride.com.

Equality Riders Arrested at Oklahoma Baptist University; Administration Reneges on Last Year’s Promise to Protect LGBT Students

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 15, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, kyle@equalityride.com
******************************************

(Shawnee, Oklahoma) — Yesterday, 5 Equality Riders were arrested for attempting to worship at chapel with students from Oklahoma Baptist University. The Soulforce Equality Ride is a nationwide journey of 50 young adults visiting conservative Christian colleges to challenge policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The arrests were made when all 26 of the East Bus Equality Riders and 1 community member sought to enter onto campus and were turned away with a warning of trespassing. Five of the Equality Riders, truly determined to worship with students, were arrested by the Shawnee Police. The 5 arrested were Katie Higgins, 23; Rachel Loskill, 21; Robin Reynolds, 23; Curtis Peterson, 21; and Angel Collie, 24.

The bus holding 25 diverse young adults, including former students of conservative Christian colleges, straight allies and gay evangelical Christians, traveled to Shawnee to visit OBU and bring a message of inclusion and academic freedom to students. This is the second time the Equality Ride has visited OBU. The first time came in 2006 when the administration allowed Equality Riders to remain in a single room, which limited dialogue with students.

Since the visit by the inaugural Equality Ride, the school’s policy has become more extreme and explicit – it now bans advocacy and support for LGBT students by straight allies as well as openly gay and transgender students.

When the Equality Riders arrived on Thursday they were warned by campus security that any entrance onto campus would result in arrest. Relentless in their mission to talk with students about the university’s discrimination against LGBT students, 5 of the Equality Riders chose to go onto campus anyway in the hopes of initiating conversation.

"Many OBU students are disappointed with the administration’s decision to deny this opportunity for dialogue. Last year, important steps were taken in expanding the minds of students on the issue of faith, gender, and sexuality. This year, however, administration has decided to remove inclusive perspectives from the discussion, exemplifying the injustice that has brought the Equality Ride here," said Co-Director Jarrett Lucas.

In addition to the harsher policy, a student’s request to include LGBT students in the university’s anti-discrimination policy was rejected this past year. The rejection came in spite of the university’s previous promise to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups.

The Equality Ride plans to return to OBU’s campus today in hopes of continuing conversations with students just outside of campus grounds. The group will also be presenting a tapestry of affirming statements and biblical verses.

The Equality Ride East Bus was in Springfield, MO earlier this week, where two straight allies were arrested for attempting to enter onto Central Bible College’s campus. After its stop in Shawnee, OK the Equality Ride plans to visit Baylor University in Waco, TX where Equality Riders are being allowed onto campus as guests of 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. For more information go to www.soulforce.org or www.equalityride.com.