Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Equality Riders" Target Baptist Colleges, Including ABC Related Eastern

The photo above is from This is a good example of the false analogy between race and sexual orientation. It's also a good example of the fact that much of the political left is motivated by a nostalgia for the Civil Rights/Vietnam era. Those were the days, my friend; we thought they'd never end...oh, yes, those were the days.

Gay activists arrested at Liberty, target 4 other Baptist colleges

By Robert Marus
Published March 15, 2006

LYNCHBURG, Va. (ABP) -- Styling themselves after the famous Freedom Riders of the civil-rights era, a group of gay-rights activists is targeting Baptist and other Christian colleges with a cross-country bus trip that is part teach-in, part protest.

The "Equality Ride," organized by the religious gay-rights group Soulforce, began with a bang March 10. That day, about two dozen participants were arrested for trespassing after they tried to walk onto the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Liberty, founded by Southern Baptist pastor and Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell, had
refused to allow the riders on its property. Soulforce is headquartered in Lynchburg and was co-founded by Mel White, who, before revealing the truth about his sexual orientation, worked as a ghost writer for Falwell and other prominent Christian conservatives.

Falwell earlier released a statement saying he opposed allowing the group on campus because he believes Soulforce "is not acting in good faith and is simply trying to use such encounters on Christian college campuses as a media attraction and for their ultimate purpose of fundraising."
According to Soulforce, there are approximately 30 young adults participating in the trip, which was inspired by the 1961 Freedom Rides that protested segregated interstate bus travel in the South. The Equality Riders are protesting Christian colleges, a Mormon school, two military academies and the ROTC program at a state school -- all of which have policies the group considers anti-gay.

"At military and religious colleges around the nation, bans on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender enrollment force students into closets of fear and self-hate," said the website

The statement said the group would attempt to educate students and school administrators at each stop on the seven-week tour. "Through dialogue with administrators and discussions with students, the young activists of the Equality Ride will make clear the harmful effects of the false notion that homosexuality is a 'sickness and a sin,' and 'a threat to the nation and the military,'" it said.

The tour's first two stops have apparently provided little opportunity for such dialogue. Following the March 10 arrests at Liberty, the group ran into similar opposition March 13-14 at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. That school, founded by conservative broadcaster Pat Robertson, refused to allow the riders to set foot on campus.

According to an Equality Ride press statement, officials from the group struck a deal with Regent administrators to set up tables on public property in front of the school and hand out materials or have discussions there. But campus security guards then prevented students from leaving campus to talk to the Equality Riders.

On March 14, six protesters reportedly were arrested after attempting to enter the Regent campus. However, beforehand, the group met at a restaurant across the street with Regent students who oppose the school's policy.

Several of the Baptist schools targeted by the ride plan less confrontational ways of dealing with the group -- ranging from polite indifference to a series of dialogues with administrators, faculty and student leaders.

At Union University in Jackson, Tenn., which is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, President David Dockery sent a letter to students, employees and supporters explaining how his school would deal with the planned March 18 visit.

Union will not bar the riders from the campus, Dockery said, but also will not sponsor any official interactions. "While we will seek to be kind and gracious in every way, it would be irresponsible for us to offer any public forum on such serious issues to a group of individuals that we do not know and who do not know us," Dockery wrote. "This group has no investment in or accountability to the academic community or campus life of Union University."

Likewise, a spokesman for Oklahoma Baptist University -- scheduled for a March 23-24 visit from the riders -- said the institution would neither bar nor legitimate the group. Marty O'Gwynn, the school's vice president for communications, said in a March 14 telephone interview that the campus is open -- with two public streets passing through it -- and that the Soulforce riders will be given the same access as any visitors.

"We are not planning to ban them from the campus, as we would not ban people from our campus if they come to visit the common areas," he said. However, O'Gwynn added, "Because of our human-sexuality policy, we are not able to co-host something with a group that's speaking against our policy."

Students would not be barred from contact with the riders, as long as the contact is welcomed and not done to create the appearance of an official forum. "If they strike up a conversation with students that are willing to talk to them, they can discuss their concerns … similar to how we present our testimony as evangelicals," O'Gwynn said.

At two other Baptist schools on the route, however, administrators plan educational events in conjunction with the ride's organizers. Bethel University, a Baptist General Conference-related school in St. Paul, Minn., will host a series of campus events surrounding the ride's April 18 visit.
They will include debates and other forums on homosexuality and Christianity, a forum with the riders, potential dialogues with student leaders, as well as informal interaction between riders and students, upon invitation.

Bethel Provost Jay Barnes, in a statement, said the school views the event as a learning opportunity for its students. "Bethel University is a place where all people are treated with love and respect, and where our students are encouraged to form sound positions on cultural issues relevant to their Christian faith," he said. "In this spirit of academic freedom and learning, we are working to host the Equality Riders in a way that helps our students do critical thinking."
However, Bethel and several of the other targeted schools insist they do not ban students based on their homosexual orientation but ban all sexual activity for students outside of marriage.
"Bethel does not screen applicants for their perceived sexual orientation but makes clear that chaste behavior is expected for all students, staff and faculty who are not in a heterosexual marriage," the school's statement on the Equality Ride notes.

But, Equality Ride officials say, all of the schools have homophobic atmospheres on campus, and some until very recently have had strongly anti-gay policies. For instance, until this academic year, OBU's policy barred not only students who were "professedly practicing homosexual[s]" but also the "promotion of homosexuality within its jurisdiction."

Other Baptist-related schools on the route are California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., and the American Baptist-related Eastern University in St. Davids, Penn. The ride is scheduled to end with an April 26 trip to the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.


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