Equality Riders Inspire Gay Students at Pepperdine University

National Tour of Gay Youth to End Religion-Based Discrimination on Christian Campuses

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 29, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com
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(Malibu, CA) — The Soulforce Equality Ride spent two days at Pepperdine University sitting in on lectures, leading presentations, sparking dialogue, visiting the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and reaching out to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community at Pepperdine to address discriminatory policies against LGBT people on campus.

The Equality Riders headed to Pepperdine for a welcomed dialogue regarding faith and gays following the arrest of an Equality Rider and his mother at Brigham Young University for attempting to delivery a list of BYU students’ concerns to the administration. Pepperdine has discriminatory doctrines and policies that harm LGBT individuals on campus. The Pepperdine University 2006-07 student handbook states that "homosexual conduct" will result in disciplinary action.

Pepperdine stop organizer Brian Murphy, a Los Angeles area resident, says: "I cannot in good conscience remain silent when there is a school in my own community that silences people solely on the basis of sexual orientation."

This is the fifth stop for the Equality Ride. The Equality Riders are fifty young adults of varying sexual orientations and faith backgrounds on a mission to end religion-based discrimination against LGBT students on Christian campuses. The fifty young adults are dispersed between two buses with two routes, one bus is eastbound and the other is westbound. From Notre Dame University to Brigham Young University, the westbound bus has connected with many student leaders who have honored this conversation despite the avoidance of administration, while the eastbound has endured arriving to campuses with policemen on rooftops, being held in jail for over 24 hours, vandalism of their bus, and hostile policemen, all for attempting peaceful dialogue regarding the wellbeing of LGBT students on these campuses.

"On the west bus, we are fortunate to have had opportunities to begin this dialogue, especially knowing that our brothers and sisters on the east bus and the students they come to help are still working to simply be recognized as beings that are due this conversation," says Haven Herrin, West Bus Co-Director.

"Pepperdine needs to recognize that having tolerance for us [LGBT students] is not the same as having love for us. We are worthy students and deserve an equal place on campus, a place to formally congregate to do good work, to support one another, and to diversify the student body, because when they [the administration] ignore us and deny us formal recognition as a good and functional student group they send a message to the student body that we are not worthy and in someway wrong," Anthony Barnes, freshman at Pepperdine University and member of the unrecognized student organization Malibu GLEE (gays, lesbian and everyone else).

This Thursday, Pepperdine’s administration, including Mark Davis, Vice President of Students, agreed to meet with GLEE to continue this dialogue.

The Equality Riders will continue their mission to end religion-based discrimination against the LGBT community as they visit Brigham Young University, Idaho in mid-April. The next stop on the Ride will be Fresno Pacific University, where Equality Riders will engage in a welcomed dialogue regarding FPU’s discriminatory policies.


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.

Arrests Made on Notre Dame Campus; Young Adult Activists Taken Into Custody

Equality Riders on a Mission to End Religion-Based Discrimination

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 9, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com
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(South Bend, IN) — Six young adults were arrested today for walking onto the Notre Dame campus in a show of support for gay and lesbian equality. The arrestees are members of the Soulforce Equality Ride, a nationwide mission of 50 gay and straight youth leaders who seek to address religion-based discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students on anti-gay college campuses.

The six Soulforce members were joined by two Notre Dame students, Eddie Velazquez and a graduate theology student who requested anonymity, as they walked two by two carrying flowered wreaths intended for the site of the Tom Dooley memorial statue, a gay alumnus of Notre Dame who served in silence as a doctor in the Navy.

On Thursday, Notre Dame campus police issued trespass warnings to two Equality Riders for speaking with students in the cafeteria. Those Riders were the first arrested today for misdemeanor criminal trespassing. The other four Soulforce members were given written citations and then arrested on the same charges after attempting to continue the walk. Velazquez and the graduate student received an "official summons subject to immediate suspension" from campus officials. They were able to deliver one of the three wreaths to the Dooley memorial site.

"As a gay Catholic man who was once in seminary, I walked onto Notre Dame today to help make my church a universal church. I did as Jesus Christ did and went all the way for love," said Rider Delfin Bautista who helped organize the stop in South Bend. The twenty-five Soulforce Equality Riders will continue to outreach to the local South Bend, Indiana, community with a film screening of "In Good Conscience," the story of a Catholic nun who struggles with the Vatican for gay and lesbian equality.

Those arrested today include: Haven Herrin, Delfin Bautista, Jess Kalup, Kelsey Pacha, Dan Seda, and Mike Cramer. They were released within hours with a ticket to appear in court at a later date.

For two years, Notre Dame has remained at the top of a list of least gay-friendly schools according to a Princeton Review survey of students at the college. AllianceND, an LGBT student group, has been denied official status as a student organization. Official student organizations may not be in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church, which holds that homosexual orientation is "a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil."

The Soulforce Equality Ride will continue their 32-school journey at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI on March 12. The school has agreed to a limited off-campus meeting but has yet to welcome the Soulforce Equality Ride for discussion of faith and gay and lesbian issues and may arrest Riders for walking on 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. For more information go to www.soulforce.org or www.equalityride.com.

Equality Ride Faces Vandalism, Intimidation in the Heartland – East Bus is Defaced with Anti-gay Slurs in Iowa; Students Face Repercussions at Notre Dame

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 8, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com
Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 352-978-2082, kyle@equalityride.com
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(Sioux Center, IA and South Bend, IN) — On the opening day of Equality Ride 2007, the 50 young Riders faced grim reminders of why they are on 2 buses, headed for 32 Christian colleges with policies that silence or exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Last night the eastbound bus made its first stop in Sioux Center, IA, where Riders were harassed at their hotel. This morning they awoke to find their bus defaced by graphic anti-gay graffiti.

The Equality Ride traveled to Sioux Center to visit Dordt College, a school that counts "sexual activity with someone of the same gender" as possible grounds for "an employee’s discharge or a student’s dismissal." The Equality Ride’s mission is to open a dialogue about the painful consequences of discrimination and the religion-based prejudice that sustains it.

The bus full of young adults, including former students of conservative Christian colleges, straight allies, and gay evangelical Christians, arrived in Sioux Center in the early evening. On the night of March 7th, three vehicles circled the hotel where the Equality Riders were staying, harassing the young adults who were staying inside. In the morning, anti-gay slurs were found written on the side of the bus, along with a hate-filled message on a piece of cardboard: "God does not love feary f****"

To view photos of the defacement, click here. (Warning: Photos show obscenities and hate speech.)

Last year, the Equality Ride received a similar welcome in Cleveland, TN. There community members wrote "fags-mobile" on the side of the bus. Katie Higgins, co-director of the Eastbound bus and a rider from last year commented, "This is the reality created by fear and misunderstanding. It saddens me that people have such hatred in their hearts, but this just demonstrates why we feel called to spread our message of the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings."

The Equality Riders remained undeterred in their determination to bring a message of inclusion and academic freedom to Dordt College. They visited the college to have conversations with students about the college’s discriminatory policy and the harm it does to LGBT students. During the visit, Dordt’s President publicly apologized for the community’s behavior.

As the Riders on the eastbound bus were meeting with students and administrators on the Dordt College campus, the Riders on the westbound bus were supporting gay students at Notre Dame who attempted to speak publicly about their experiences in the cafeteria of the Student Center. One Notre Dame freshman, Eddie Velasquez, was announcing further opportunities for dialogue with the Equality Riders when an administration official approached him and attempted to escort him away. Velasquez was approached by the campus police and his information was taken down; repercussions for him and the other students are currently unknown. Six of the Equality Riders were issued trespassing warnings by Notre Dame campus police.

Later this evening, Carrie Call, of St. Mary’s College is hosting the Equality Riders along with PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), students from St. Mary’s College and Notre Dame, and gay community members of South Bend for an evening of entertainment and presentations.

At 10 am on Friday, March 9, the riders will hold a second press conference at the main gate of Notre Dame (intersection of Notre Dame Ave. and Angela/Edison). Directly after the press conference, the riders and students will present a wreath to the Tom Dooley Statue located on campus. Tom Dooley was a gay military hero who was discharged under the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. At the statue, riders will hold a vigil and partake in the St. Francis prayer and song. Many of the riders who have been issued trespassing warnings will be taking part in this ceremony. Arrests are likely.


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.

Photos from the Soulforce Equality Ride West Bus, March 8th, 2007

Photos by Allison Eby and Delfin Bautista


Banners and wreaths at Notre Dame

Holding the banner

Riders walk onto Notre Dame campus

Carrying flowered wreaths intended for the site of the Tom Dooley memorial statue, a gay alumnus of Notre Dame

Soulforce Q Launches Nationwide Journey to Christian Colleges to Talk About LGBT People and Faith

Second Annual Soulforce Equality Ride Departs Today

Notre Dame – Pepperdine – BYU Among Stops

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 7, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brandon Kneefel, West Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138, brandon@equalityride.com
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(Minneapolis, MN) — Today 50 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight young adults from diverse faiths will begin a mission to dialogue with tomorrow’s conservative leaders at Christian colleges across the nation.

Christian colleges are the fastest growing segment of higher education. At more than 200 Christian colleges in the United States, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students are silenced, forced out of school, or referred to harmful "ex-gay" therapies.

At 32 schools on 2 separate bus routes, the 2007 Equality Riders are determined to open a conversation about the devastating impacts of anti-gay policies. While some schools will welcome the Ride and the opportunity for dialogue, others have announced that they will arrest the Riders for trespassing. The threat of arrest will not deter these dedicated young people, who are determined to sharing their life-saving message about the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.

The Westbound bus will start off heading south to the University of Notre Dame, rated by students in a Princeton Review survey as the least hospitable school for gay and lesbian students. The administration at Notre Dame does not welcome the Ride, and arrest is a possibility for Riders, students, and community members who partake in direct action. However, the Riders are committed to meeting all campuses with peace and understanding, and many campuses will work to do the same: for example, Pepperdine University has invited the Riders to attend the Tolerance Museum with Pepperdine students. The Westbound bus will also make a return visit to Brigham Young University in Utah and make a debut visit to the BYU Idaho campus. The Equality Riders have been barred from both campuses and will be met by police upon arrival.

For a complete West bus itinerary, go to www.soulforce.org/article/901

The East bound bus will also start off heading south, traveling down to Baylor University, a Southern Baptist University in Waco, Texas. The Equality Ride will then travel east, stopping at such schools as Mississippi College, where students have been warned not to talk with Equality Riders and repeated attempts to communicate with administration have been rejected. Once on the East coast, the bus will turn north, visiting Bob Jones University, where interracial dating was still prohibited until 2000. The bus will continue north into Massachusetts where, despite the state’s pro-equality policies, Gordon College still has anti-gay policies on the books.

For a complete East bus itinerary, go to www.soulforce.org/article/789

Both buses return westward to reunite in Minneapolis for a final visit to Bethany Lutheran College.

"We come in pursuit of greater understanding," says Haven Herrin, Co-director of Soulforce Q, the young adult division of the national LGBT social justice group Soulforce. "Our goal is to foster a conversation about LGBT people and faith. While such conversations are often marked by politics and divisiveness, we bring open minds and hearts to academic settings, where we hope for a genuine exchange of ideas."

Herrin sees the diversity of this year’s cohort as another indicator of the project’s growth. "We come from a variety of experiences, a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. There are 5 straight allies on this year’s ride. There are 4 riders who identify as transgender. There are Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, and evangelical Christians. We’re all here to have a conversation with America’s next conservative religious generation about our personal lives and our personal relationships to the scriptures that the schools use to condemn us."

Eight of the 2007 riders are current or former students from schools on the 2006 ride, including Vince Cervantes and Vince Pancucci, a young couple who experienced Equality Ride 2006 as students at Azusa Pacific University. This evangelical Christian school welcomed the riders and hosted a public forum; more than 1,200 Azusa students listened, cried, and prayed for healing as Equality Riders shared their experiences of anti-gay violence. Inspired by that event, Cervantes and Pancucci have come out to the campus and become activists in their communities.

More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against LGBT students. In 2006, the inaugural Equality Ride traveled to 19 of those schools and held vigils, Bible studies, class discussions, and community forums. This year the Ride’s reach has nearly doubled.


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.