Pink News (UK), "Six arrested on Florida University campus in gay rights protest"

Six arrested on Florida University campus in gay rights protest

Thursday, October 16, 2008
By Rachel Charman, Pink News (UK)

Members of a gay rights "Equality Ride" protest were arrested yesterday as they attempted to enter a university campus chapel.

Six members of LGBT equality group Soulforce Q, were arrested on trespassing charges at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBAU).

PBAU does not exclude gay students from its 3,200 population, but does ban "homosexual behaviour" amongst its members.

Soulforce’s visit to PBAU was part of the "Equality Ride"; a trip across the US made by 50 young people visiting 32 American faith-based colleges that hold policies that exclude or silence LGBT students.

On reaching PBAU, Soulforce members were not allowed by PBAU officials to enter the campus.

They spent the morning on the pavement outside the campus, discussing the Bible and LGBT issues with passing students and parents.

When six members of the Soulforce group attempted to enter the university chapel at the beginning of a service, they were stopped by Terry Wheeler, director of campus security, and Lieutenant Mike Roggin of the West Palm Beach Police Department.

Mr Wheeler informed the Soulforce members that they were "unwanted" and that the police would enforce trespassing law.

Six Soulforce members were then arrested and taken to the county jail.

The arrested members were Jarrett Lucas, 22; Danielle Cooper, 19; Lauren Parke, 25; Zakiya Tanner, 24; Nicholas R. DeFinis, 22; and Zakariah Rittenhouse, 21.

Speaking about the purpose of the Equality Ride, Haven Herrin, co-director of Soulfoce Q, said:

"We come in pursuit of greater understanding.

"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."

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

In 2006, the inaugural Equality Ride travelled to 19 of those schools and held vigils, Bible studies, class discussions and community forums.

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 five straight allies on this year’s ride. There are four 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.

Brigham Young University junior Matt Kulisch, a member of the Latter Day Saints and one of the students who participated in the action, cited his faith as part of his motivation for being arrested with the Equality Riders.

"My church has always taught me the principle of standing for something true.

"My integrity demanded that this message of God’s love for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people be told in its entirety."

The original article is available on the Pink News website:
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-9314.html

‘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 to Visit Palm Beach Atlantic in South Florida

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

******************************************
SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: October 7, 2008
For Immediate Release

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

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.

###

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.

2008 Equality Ride Route: Palm Beach Atlantic University

Palm Beach Atlantic UniversityThe Equality Ride stop at Palm Beach Atlantic University is October 13-14, 2008.

The Equality Rider organizing the stop at Palm Beach Atlantic University is Nick Savelli.

Nick Savelli Nick Savelli
nick@equalityride.com

If you are a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, an alum of Palm Beach Atlantic University, or a concerned citizen in the West Palm Beach, Florida area and would like to help with the Soulforce Q Equality Ride’s visit to Palm Beach Atlantic University, please register below.

Register to help with the 2008 Equality Ride’s stop at Palm Beach Atlantic University