Administration Refuses to Discuss Safety of Gay Students
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 21, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Waco, TX) — Yesterday, six young adults were arrested for chalking on campus at Baylor University. Around 20 young adults, an even mix of Equality Riders and Baylor students, wrote Bible verses and other messages affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students on the sidewalk in front of Waco Hall, where students regularly worship. After about five minutes, plainclothes police from the Waco Police Department approached and ordered the riders and students to stop.
Five of the Equality Riders and one Baylor student remained relentless in their mission to bring messages of inclusion and refused to stop chalking. They were promptly arrested for criminal trespassing. They remained in custody overnight and have not been released.
The remaining Equality Riders lined up on either side of the walkway and began to sing "We Shall Overcome" and other songs as Baylor students watched in tears. After the police had finished arresting those chalking, they ordered the rest of the riders and students to leave campus or be arrested for trespassing.
"For a campus that is ‘comfortable with conversations about human sexuality,’ Baylor seems very quick to silence those who have differing opinions on the topic," said one student, who asked to remain anonymous. The student was referencing an e-mail to the student body from Dr. Samuel Oliver, Vice President for Student Life.
Included in those arrested were Amanda Harris, a former Baylor student, Vince Cervantes, Shawn O’Neil, Mandy Mathias, Joshua Polycarpe, and Sean Morrison, a current student at Baylor.
Baylor University is one of 32 mostly Christian colleges and universities that Soulforce will visit as part of its second annual Soulforce Equality Ride. The 2007 Equality Ride is a 2 month journey by bus that is taking 50 young adults on 2 distinct routes to schools that actively discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Baylor University, a private Christian university located in Waco, TX, has a policy that identifies "homosexual acts" as a "misuse of God’s gift" and as grounds for sanction.
On Monday, the Equality Riders visited campus, attended chapel, and initiated informal conversations with students about the climate for LGBT students and their supporters. In these conversations, and in public forum off-campus, gay and straight Baylor students and alumni described an atmosphere of fear and silence and detailed at least one instance of anti-gay intimidation in the residence halls.
Although Baylor officials decided not to arrest the Equality Riders for entering onto campus Monday, the Equality Ride was refused an official forum to raise isssues about the discriminatory policy and the atmosphere it breeds. The riders and students decided to chalk in order to provide a voice to silenced lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
The chalking was also done in remembrance of Baylor Freedom, an underground LGBT rights organization that was never officially recognized by Baylor University. The organization used to regularly chalk on campus in order to create awareness about issues surrounding the LGBT community and to create a support network for students. However, Baylor staff would immediately wash off the messages of affirmation. Today, the messages of religious love and inclusion were washed off by Baylor administration within an hour of the action.
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.