‘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

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

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.

###

Equality Riders and Liberty U. Students Create Spirited Diaogue On Campus

Video Available Online

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 2, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

(Lynchburg, Virginia) — Yesterday, 17 young adults arrived at Liberty University to continue a discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and Christianity. The Soulforce Q Equality Ride, now in its third year, seeks to make faith-based college campuses safe and welcoming learning environments for all students by promoting dialogue about faith and fairness.

Liberty University, the first stop on this year’s Equality Ride, was visited by Soulforce Q in 2006 when over 20 people were arrested for trespassing as they attempted to enter campus to speak to students.

This year the Equality Ride received a different reception. Five Riders were allowed to enter campus to deliver books to the Guillerman Library. "Students have told us that when they visit Guillerman, books that affirm LGBT people are clearly absent," Katie Higgins, one of the Equality Ride’s Co-directors explains. At this point, school officials have said they are reviewing the books to determine whether they fit within the school’s established curriculum. Higgins continues, "Having these books on the shelves would mean that our voices of hope don’t fade when our bus pulls away."

After the Riders donated the books to the library, they moved to a courtyard on campus. As Riders sang hymns, students started to gather and conversations began shortly after. Over the course of an hour, the five Equality Riders spoke to groups of up to forty students, many of whom were actively engaged in the dialogue. (Video of the exchange is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z-z_2qfl7s)

Since only five Equality Riders were permitted on campus, students were encouraged to continue the discussion with the Riders at a designated location on University Blvd. "Every Rider has a unique story. Since all of the Liberty students we spoke to seemed genuinely interested in this discussion, we wanted them to be able to hear all of our voices," says Nicholas Rocco DeFinis, a Rider from Lansdale, PA. The dialogue continued until 5:30 PM when Soulforce Q’s permit expired.

An anonymous student thanked the Riders: "Just by being here, you are providing so much comfort to so many students."

More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit 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.

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.

###

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.

 

 

Lynchburg News & Advance, "Gay activist group debates homosexuality at Liberty University"

Gay activist group debates homosexuality at Liberty University

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
By Christa Desrets, Lynchburg News & Advance

The dialogue began slowly.

Five members of the gay activist group Soulforce held hands Wednesday afternoon and stood to face about 50 Liberty University students behind the school’s DeMoss Hall in Lynchburg.

They had just returned from donating five gay-affirming Christian books to the school’s library, and Caitlin MacIntyre invited onlookers to join them in singing “Amazing Grace.”

“No thanks,” one student said.

Across the sidewalk, students paged through Bibles as the hymn’s familiar first verse filled the air.

Liberty student Lawanda Sowell said she was searching for passages to describe her belief that homosexuality is a sin.

“They believe in what they believe because they are blind,” she said.

The song ended, and the two groups stood opposite each other with two different opinions on how to interpret the role of homosexuality and the definition of marriage in the Bible.

Liberty was the first of 15 planned stops at faith-based institutions on Soulforce’s annual Equality Ride, a national bus tour meant to encourage an inviting environment for any on-campus gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students.

“Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘homosexuality is sin,’” said Soulforce member Nicholas Rocco DeFinis.

Liberty student Steven Mosley disagreed.

“This is never affirmed in the Bible, ever,” he countered. “You should not be living like this.”

Soulforce member Danielle Cooper said many things have changed since the days of Jesus.

“Marriage, in terms of how we see it, has come a long, long way,” she said.

Although they disagreed, dialogue was exactly what Soulforce had hoped for, said Jarrett Lucas.

“It has to be open and it has to be honest,” he said. “Ideally, we come together and understand each other before the end of the day — or however long it takes.”

Earlier this week, Liberty officials had said they would not allow the group on campus. When Soulforce members came to the school in 2006, more than 20 were arrested on charges of trespassing after walking onto school property.

“It wasn’t our intention to tell them ahead of time to come on campus,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said Wednesday. “In fact, we told them they couldn’t. But they didn’t cause any incidents, so we didn’t arrest anybody.”

“Most students believe, like my father did, that you should love the sinner, hate the sin, show compassion and try to be a good witness. So that’s what I think our students did today.”

Capt. Al Thomas with the Lynchburg Police Department monitored the assembly from off campus and said the day was incident-free.

In the past couple of weeks, he has facilitated conversations between Soulforce and Liberty as the activist group planned for the event.

“They assured us that this would be a peaceful, nonviolent assembly, and I think that has gone according to plan,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

Liberty junior Erika Green said she was happy to have the chance to speak with the group.

“We’re supposed to love everyone, so it would be wrong to turn them away,” she said.

Katie Higgins, co-director of the Equality Ride, said the group had been in contact with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students at Liberty who felt that the school community promoted discrimination against them.

Falwell said the school’s code of conduct does not prohibit homosexuality, but it does forbid sexual activity outside of marriage.

“And in order for there to be a marriage in Virginia, it has to be between a man and a woman,” he said earlier this week.

As for the donated books, he said, “Somebody brought them up to my office today, and we have a committee that will decide whether to make them a part of the collection or not.”

After more than an hour of discussion, Soulforce members walked back to their bus and a dozen other Equality Riders who rallied from just outside of campus. Many students joined them. The group is in town until Sunday, and plans a discussion on the role of homosexuality in Christianity today at 11 a.m. at the Starbucks on Wards Road.

Wednesday’s dialogue had begun slowly, but continued as clusters formed here and there along University Boulevard.

Bill Carpenter, director of national actions for Soulforce, looked on with interest.

“We’re just beginning the adventure for this year,” he said.

 

The original article is available on the Lynchburg News & Advance website:
http://www.newsadvance.com/lna/news/local/article/gay_activist_group_debates_homosexuality_at_liberty_university/8984/