GLBT Interfaith Leaders Take on Historic Collaboration During Global Week of Prayer

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: October 31, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Robyn Murphy, 314-712-7431, robyn@soulforce.org
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For the first time in each of their histories, Soulforce Inc., Dignity USA, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) are co-sponsoring a Global Week of Prayer, November 6-12, calling all members and allies to prayer as an effort to restore religious equality.

The Global Week of Prayer is in response to recent Vatican policies of continued scapegoating of gays rather than dealing directly with the pedophile scandal and the abdication of responsibility within the Church. According to a Sept. 19th Catholic World News Brief "The text, which was approved by Pope Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers."

For Dignity USA, the organization dedicated to equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, this represents a molten moment in the church’s history. "We call on all DignityUSA members and all who support our mission to join us in prayer this week. In answering God’s call, LGBT men and women have served your Church well for many centuries. We ask the Spirit to open our Church today to all of God’s children, to all who are embraced by Christ’s love. We bring our hands together in prayer that our Church will follow Christ’s example to love one another. DignityUSA is delighted and proud to pray side by side with Soulforce and UFMCC," said Debbie Weill, executive director of DignityUSA.

By focusing efforts via a Global Week of Prayer, the groups will bring attention to what is being called a new "Inquisition," by the Vatican. "By calling people to prayer, we are calling people to action. We are calling people to join their words and intentions in a mighty chorus of justice," explained Rev. Elder Nori Rost, the UFMCC liaison for this event. "We believe that by doing so we can ultimately drown out the clamor of homophobia and bigotry that has too long been the song the Vatican sings." Prayer vigils are planned in Denver, Detroit, St. Louis, Venice Florida with other locations joining in throughout the world.

According to UFMCC’s new moderator, Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, "Each organization has as part of their mission, being called to raise our voices in sacred defiance against religious, political or systematic exclusion. Social justice and religious equality are at our core. Through sponsoring events like the Global Week of Prayer, we make real our call to lift up new generations of remarkable, far-reaching spiritual activists."

Soulforce is proud to be joined by these two prestigious organizations, both of whom work diligently towards ending religious violence against GLBT people. "As activists we too often use prayer as a last resort rather than our first strategy in the face of such bigotry. This is a very exciting moment for us in Soulforce to have MCC and Dignity join us in calling their membership to prayer. We’re very hopeful that this will be the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between these three important organizations", says Kara Speltz, Soulforce Catholic Team Chair.

To learn more about the event and how you can participate, go to either organizations websites at : www.soulforce.org, www.dignityusa.org, or www.mccchurch.org.


Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities. Soulforce was founded in 1998 by Rev. Dr. Mel White, author of Stranger at the Gate, and former ghostwriter for evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Report on the Equality Ride’s Journey to the United States Naval Academy

by Jacob Reitan, Equality Ride Director

Group photo of the Equality Riders

On Friday, October 21, forty-five young adults from around the Washington, D.C. area took part in the Equality Ride to the United States Naval Academy. The Equality Riders journeyed to the Naval Academy to take a stand against the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. Because of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" none of the over 4,000 midshipmen at the Naval Academy are allowed to come out as openly gay or lesbian people.

Prior to our arrival at the Academy, we thought that our day would end when we tried to gain entry to Academy grounds. In both phone calls and letters, Naval Academy officials had expressed in no uncertain terms that if we tried to enter Academy property we would be arrested. Captain Dunn, Chief of Staff for the Academy, stated in a letter to the Equality Riders, "Be advised that accessing the Academy grounds for the purpose of protesting or engaging midshipmen, faculty and staff, may subject you to arrest and prosecution by the appropriate Federal authorities."

The Academy’s threats of arrest caused a great deal of media interest in the Equality Ride. Numerous news outlets ran stories on the Academy’s threats prior to the day of the direct action, including the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Capitol Reporter, The Navy Times and the Washington Blade.

In the face of the Academy’s threats, the Equality Riders were undeterred. We had stated our intention to seek dialogue with midshipmen and we were going to stay true to our goals even if it met submitting to arrest in order to do so.

Rev. Tommy Watkins
Rev. Tommy Watkins

Upon our arrival at the Naval Academy, numerous news outlets were waiting. As a group we got off the bus that had transported us from HRC headquarters in DC and lined the side walk in front of the Academy. For a half an hour we stood in silent vigil, holding up signs that read "Lift the Ban" and "Hear Us Out." After the Vigil, we held a press conference to explain to the assembled media why we had come to the Academy. Speaking at the press conference was Rev. Tommie Watkins, a former midshipmen, who the Academy discharged in 1997, when it was discovered he was gay.

After the press conference, the group lined up at Gate 1 to enter the Academy like any other visitor. At this point, we all assumed it would be just a few short minutes before we were taken off to jail, but instead, after consulting with the Department of Defense, the marines guarding Gate 1 allowed us to enter onto Academy grounds.

It was a rainy day but at that point it felt like the sun was shinning down on us. As a group we assembled together, to talk about our plan for the remainder of our day at the Academy. It was clear that dialogue we hoped for would indeed take place. The reality that for one day there would be out GLBT people at the Academy and midshipmen would know about it was enough to make us consider the day a success.

After a short group discussion, we decided we would go eat in Dahlgren Hall. Sitting in groups of four or five, we ate pizza, while trying our best to converse with the midshipmen eating beside us. Our time in Dahlgreen prompted one news outlet to lead into the story with the statement "Naval Academy protest turns into Pizza Party."

After eating in Dahlgreen, Commander Gibbons, the Public Relations Officer, came over to asking me to follow him. Captain Dunn, the Chief of Staff of the Academy and the woman who had threatened to arrest us, wanted to meet with me.

In our meeting, Captain Dunn expressed her concerns that we were talking with midshipmen about gay and lesbian issues. I explained to her that this was the purpose of our visit. In response, she explained that visitors to the Academy do not express political views. I explained that to us this is more than just a political view, this is our lives and humanity and from the beginning we had been honest with her about our intentions in coming onto campus. Nonetheless, she said if we continued to talk about gay and lesbian issues with midshipmen she would have us escorted off of the Academy grounds. She made it clear that if midshipmen asked us why were here, we would be allowed to talk about our issues, but only if they asked us.

We were faced with a decision: leave willingly, stay our course and get arrested or choose to stay under their restrictions. We choose to remain under their limitations. I still don’t know if it was the right choice but it allowed us to remain and continue to meet midshipmen. Midshipmen knew why we were there. They had been notified by Captain Dunn in a brigade-wide email about our coming.

Jacob Reitan attempting to shake hands with a midshipman
Jacob Reitan attempting to shake hands with a midshipman

For the rest of the afternoon we remained and functioned under the Naval Academy’s restrictions. In small groups we wandered the campus and met a great deal of midshipmen. At 2 p.m. classes changed and we created a pseudo assembly line where nearly all midshipmen had to file past us in our brightly colored rainbow shirts choosing to shake or not shake our hands.

At the end of the day, I think we left an indelible impression upon the Academy. According to the city of Annapolis, it was the first time in the history of the Academy any sort of demonstration had taken place there. In the days following the action, I received numerous emails both positive and negative from midshipmen sharing their feedback. Many of these emails are below for you to read.

The event was covered by over twenty accredited news crews including: the Washington Post, The Capitol Reporter, Capitol News Service, The Washington Examiner, The Navy Times, The Washington Blade, The Baltimore Sun, QTV, The AP (a story that was picked up in over forty papers), ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates of Baltimore and Washington D.C, Fox News (USA), The Family Radio Network, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and The Mankato Free Press.

Feedback from midshipmen both postive and negative:

Naval Academy Sign"I am a midshipman, and while I am not gay/lesbian, I support your cause."


"Gay people in the military would just be harassed beyond control. It’s for their own good that they don’t tell anyone. Why don’t you mind your own damn business and stay off our campus."


"You really think that an institution like the US military cares one iota about what your absurd organization is intent on promoting? You make me sick. Ask any USNA midshipman what they really think of your political view and they will scoff and tell you to get off their property. 4999 midshipmen should be made uncomfortable by a homosexual in their midst so that one gay mid can be satisfied? Get real."


"Keep the fags out of the Navy."


"I am writing to you concerning your visit to the Naval Academy this Friday, October 21. I wanted to let you know the stir that you’ve caused at our institution. First off, as masculine as this school is, rumor spreads faster than in a girls bathroom at a middle school. So as you might have guessed, your visit is THE topic of conversation on the mouths of Mids.

I don’t have any real point in this email except that I wanted to make sure that you knew what you were getting yourself into. My school has a stigma against anything that is different (which is understandable considering they drill uniformity into us from day one). Also, there is a very bad mob mentality here which causes even the most rash individuals to get caught up in the fray which leads them to sometimes think things they wouldn’t otherwise think and say things that they wouldn’t otherwise say. So on Friday you might run into some people that are incredibly ignorant and might say or do inappropriate things. This might quickly lead you to believe that America is defended by vulgar, ignorant, idiotic people. I am writing to assure that that this is not true. Because we live in such close quarters and go through such incredible experiences together with men to the left and right of you there is a bond created not incredibly unlike the bond that is created between homosexuals. This gets soldiers to feel very insecure so they become homophobic to counteract this and to assert their ‘masculinity.’ I’m sure you’re well aware of all this, but I’d thought that I’d inform you on my opinion so that you don’t go home Friday disgusted with humanity.

I respect what you do and I’d like you to know that it takes more courage to lead a group such as equality ride every day than some of these Midshipmen will ever have to muster up in a combat zone. Personally, I’m not gay, but I have a family member that is and I think that Friday is going to be an interesting and hopefully enlightening day for all."


"I hope that your voice will be heard and that everything goes smoothly. Good luck and see you tomorrow."


"I respect your opinion but I disagree with it. I don’t think you guys realize what it is you are asking for. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy exists as a compromise, a way to allow homosexuals to serve in the military, not a means to root them out. If a servicemember is homosexual, he or she will indeed have to deal with the added stress of keeping it a secret, but he or she will not have to lie about it, at least not officially. While being homosexual would in no way prevent a sailor or marine from doing their job, neither would having long hair. Still, we have short hair, wear uniforms, shine our shoes, and don’t publicly express homosexuality.

I’m sorry that you guys can’t come on the Yard as a group. I don’t see that there’s any way they could stop you from coming on as individual civilians. I’d be happy to unofficially discuss this matter with you and academy culture via email if that would help to foster understanding."


"I am currently a Midshipman at the Naval Academy and I just want to say that I support what you guys are doing. While I am not gay, I believe the policy we have right now is narrow minded and short sighted. The worst part about it is the fact that this policy breeds unfamiliarity and mistrust among those in the military towards gays and lesbians. You must understand that a majority of the people here have never been exposed to anything of this sort, and frankly, it scares them. Because of this, I wish to apologize in advance for anything my brethren say or do. They should be disciplined enough not to do anything but unfortunately some can act very childish. It is good to see that some young people actually get off their asses and do something about it, Thank you."


"There are a number of midshipmen, including myself who support serving with any citizen who agrees to abide by the set standards of conduct regarding fraternization within units. This was not a new standard introduced by Clinton in the 1990’s, this was introduced when women began serving decades ago. It is meant to maintain good order and discipline within the services. These rules entail that officers and enlisted may not date, nor have unduly familiar relationships. These rules also apply to members of the same command, or unit.

Furthermore, I would like to reiterate that there are servicemembers who would have no qualms about serving with openly gay and lesbian mean and women. But at the same time, there are still a small number of servicemembers in the fleet and the academy who do not even wish for women to serve, let alone gays. I say this only to give you a pulse on the equality issues we currently have as evidenced by statistics taken in 2004.

At the risk of my own expulsion from the academy, I had to set up a temporary civilian email account for this message. Although I am not gay nor bisexual, such correspondance can be taken out of context. Furthermore, I wish to remain anonymous if you should choose to post this email on your website. The name I give is an inside academy joke, If you ever make it inside for a guided tour, look at the nameplate on door of the "standard" midshipman room next to the main office of Bancroft Hall.

While I cannot extend a greeting to you on behalf of the academy, let me at least welcome you to Annapolis. Also if you enjoy sushi, try the Ying Yankee."


"I am a heterosexual man, and graduated from the Naval Academy on May 27th, 2005. For what it’s worth, I’d like to let you know that you guys are right on, and I’m glad you’re making a stop at USNA. I think the military’s policy on sexual orientation needs to catch up. There’s a large portion of midshipmen (maybe even a majority) who are all-around reasonable, compassionate, and care about their fellow man without exception, but USNA is a good place to find those that need to be confronted with their own prejudices and those of their institution. Keep in mind that Friday is practically a holy day for every midshipman that walks out of Gate 1 after a hard week of academy life. I hope you can get a few who wouldn’t normally to stop and listen. Remember to thank them for their service. I wish you the best of luck. I’ll be checking the site to see how it went."


"To all the Equality Ride participants from today’s rally,

I’d just like to give you a heartfelt thank you for your rally today here at the Naval Academy. I’m sure you can surmise the general atmosphere that was raised here in the days prior to your visit; suffice it to say that you were the talk of every passing period and at every table during meals. Wednesday and Thursday this talk was, on the whole, negative. Tonight, however, there seems to be a slightly changed atmosphere when the subject is brought up. People around Bancroft Hall are not as apt to outright blast anyone who voices dissent about the idea of gays in the military.

In short, you had an effect."


"While it may still be a while before anything changes, there are those of us here who appreciate wholeheartedly the efforts you’ve gone to and hope that you continue. There is little we can do while here, in the interest of our careers, but it warms the heart to know that somewhere out there people are fighting for us. From myself and my shipmates, again: thank you."


"My writing to you is a taboo as I am subject to the policy you and others were protesting today. All I ask is that if you choose to mention this email to anyone, please refrain from ever mentioning or giving out my email address. Do reply however as I would love to hear from you. This is a dumby acct that I can check, but just for safe keeping I prefer to remain anonymous. That being said. How did it go today? I saw the shirts and Im guessing you guys got on base, but anything come of it? Did the admiral meet with you? Any media coverage? Just curious. I think what you guys did today was very courageous. I love serving my country but truly despise this policy. I can only hope that in the coming years people will realize how unfounded their fears of homosexuals are and embrace them into the armed services that same way all races and genders are. I don’t know how much was accomplished today, but if the fact that you made me proud and happy that I am fighting for people like you then I am glad. I wish I could do more. Thanks for thinking of us you all have inspired me and I wish you nothing but the best in your future efforts. Everyday I fear a witch-hunt, its just wrong."


"I am sorry that I have to do this anonymously, but I just wanted you to know that I support you and all that equalityride is trying to accomplish. I see this as our generation’s civil rights fight, and I look forward to the day when, instead of shutting you out, the academy will open its gates. I don’t know when that will be, but until then, don’t let them discourage you. This nation, this naval academy, needs to be shaken up, needs to be woken up. And it will happen. Sincerely, A Midshipman."


"I am a midshipman at USNA, and I just finished reading your open letter to the brigade. I had a few responses to one of the ideas presented in it.

I got to thinking about whether I feel that serving with openly gay people would be detrimental to my job as a midshipman and my future work as a naval officer, and about the "closeted" gay and lesbians that I could serve with. I read in the letter about stresses becoming too much for a "closeted" member of the academy, that the member would discharge himself to come out of the "closet". This idea really saddens me, that a member of this brigade would volunteer to go to this military institution and then quit because this person is homosexual. But I would prefer that the person leave than continue with their current set of values, not in regard to homosexuality, but of personal priorities. Here at USNA, we are taught from our first summer here a saying, "Ship, Shipmate, Self", with self being the very last priority. I prefer the boiled down version, "Service before self". If a person here at USNA does not have these priorities set, if a person here would rather be openly homosexual than serve in this military, I say let them leave. Under our current policy, there must be a decision on the part of person as to where their personal priorities lay.

In an environment where in two and a half years I could end up with a bullet ripping through my chest, I see it pretty simply. It is about service and sacrifices, my service is to my country, my sacrifice is that rifle round. Those who left the academy decided that being openly gay was higher on the list than serving their country."


"Thank you very much for the reply. I know you must be very busy, being that it is a night before the march. I think I may have come off a bit harsh towards your cause in my first email. I guess it’s a trait of most midshipmen or alumni to become immediately defensive about the Academy. I can see that perhaps my pride got in the way of explaining my opinions to you. In so many words, I was more or less trying to warn you that this will be your biggest obstacle to achieving the main goal of this march: to open communication between midshipmen and gay and lesbian students. When I mentioned the "demonizing of midshipmen," I should have specified that that is how many midshipmen are naturally going to feel about your group…maybe not because of what your saying, but because of who you’re saying it to. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s just how it is.

I too, am tired of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. And honestly, I think many of the younger generation of military could definitely handle training and working alongside gay and lesbian counterparts. Unfortunately there is a very strong "old guard" that is still very prolific when it comes to policymaking and "standard setting."

I guess when I was thinking through and writing my first email, I thought you were wasting your time with this march because of how firmly rooted I believe the current brass of the military is in keeping things the way they are. But now I truly see why you must do this. Those midshipmen are the future of the Navy, and the country. Things won’t change right away, but with causes like yours, I’m sure there is a great chance of influencing the next generation for the better. Good luck, God bless."

Soulforce Denver to Nonviolently Confront Anti-Gay Hysteria of the Catholic Church Hierarchy

"Open to us the Gates of Justice!"

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SOULFORCE DENVER PRESS RELEASE: October 26, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Christopher Hubble, Soulforce Denver Leader
Phone: 303-641-0824, info@soulforcedenver.org
Contact: Kate Burns, Soulforce Denver Co-Leader
Phone: 303-806-8444, kateburns303@msn.com
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DENVER, CO (October 26, 2005) – In response to the Catholic Church hierarchy’s continued scapegoating of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, Soulforce Denver will stage a nonviolent, silent vigil at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, November 12th to bear witness about the intrinsic dignity and worth evident in the lives of LGBT people and their families. The vigil will be preceded by a day-long public education workshop at MCC of the Rockies (located on the southeast corner of 10th and Clarkson in Capitol Hill, Denver).

In spite of the positive teachings about LGBT people contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church — and progressive gestures on the part of some members of the Catholic Church leadership — the Catholic Church hierarchy continues to scapegoat the LGBT community with antigay rhetoric that belies the Church’s evangelical, Gospel mission to do justice and embrace Her exiles within the pews.

Soulforce Denver group co-leader Kate Burns comments, "we sought an ongoing conversation with the Archbishop so that we might bear witness to him about the intrinsic dignity and worth evident in the lives of LGBT people and their families. We remain committed to beginning nonviolent negotiations with Archbishop Chaput — but he has refused to begin that conversation. Soulforce Denver must take a stand when it comes to basic human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, andtransgender individuals, couples, and families. All people deserve to participate in religious and political life free from spiritual violence."

The people of Soulforce Denver are grateful that the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for "respect, compassion, and sensitivity" (#2357) toward LGBT people. Unfortunately, more recent public statements by members of the Catholic Church hierarchy inspire "unjust discrimination" and spiritual violence against our beloved families and friends.

From the very first weeks following the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy, we have watched in amazement as the Vatican:

  • Forced the resignation of Fr. Tom Reese, S.J., the editor of the progressive Jesuit Catholic Weekly, AMERICA;
  • Announced that there would be no investigation into the charges of abuse by Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, (founder of the religious order the Legionaries of Christ);
  • Attempted to destabilize the Spanish government in order to prevent the enactment of same gender marriage;

Soulforce Denver local group leader Christopher Hubble comments, "Even Denver’s Archbishop Chaput has participated in the demonization of our community by associating our private, loving, intimate acts with pornography and by attempting to scapegoat us for the collapse of the institution of marriage. We ask the Archbishop to consider whether his more recent public statements and actions really demonstrate ‘respect, compassion, or sensitivity’ towards LGBT people."

"These acts of spiritual violence have devastating effects in the lives of LGBT Catholics! During the last few years, our community has endured a continuing escalation of anti-LGBT violence incited by irresponsible public statements and other actions of the Catholic Church hierarchy. Queer youth suffer the most. According to numerous studies, between 20%-50% of homeless youth in American urban centers identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender."

Two recent Vatican announcements of the impending visits to U.S. seminaries to root out gay priests and the Vatican’s approval of a new document of "instruction," stating that men with homosexual tendencies should not be ordained as Catholic priests, continue a policy of scapegoating gays rather than dealing directly with the pedophile scandal and the abdication of responsibility within the Church. According to a Sept. 19th Catholic World News Brief "The text, which was approved by Pope Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers."

"Of course we’re in the seminaries!" says Soulforce founder Rev. Dr. Mel White. "Where but in the priesthood would a gay Catholic, called by God go to serve, blessed to live in the only churchsanctioned male community? What a miscarriage of justice to believe the world will not see this witch hunt as the Vatican’s ‘shiny object’, held up to divert the world’s attention from the larger issues facing the Church. It is the Vatican’s actions that are morally disordered and anarchical to the teachings of Christ."

Since Soulforce’s founding in 1998, we have been on the front lines of the fight for recognition and rights of the LGBT community. Soulforce took international media attention this month by holding a vigil at St. Peter’s Square in memory of Alfredo Ormando, a 39-year-old Sicilian who burned himself to death in protest of the Vatican’s anti-homosexual beliefs.


About SOULFORCE DENVER
One of 23 local, licensed chapters of Soulforce, Inc., SOULFORCE DENVER is part of a nationwide movement whose purpose is "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."

About Chris Hubble
The Local Group Leader of Soulforce Denver, Chris’ affiliation with Soulforce began in 2000 when, on July 4th of that year, he was arrested with Soulforce during a civil disobedience at the Episcopal convention held in Denver, Colorado. Chris is also a member of the Soulforce national leadership team, helping plan and organize the nonviolent direct action at Focus on the Family, May 1st and 2nd, 2005.

About Kate Burns
A Colorado native, Soulforce Denver Group Co-Leader Kate Burns lives with her life partner, Sheila Schroeder, and their pet iguana in the Denver area. A freelance writer, Burns creates books for middle- and high-school students to help them explore many viewpoints about controversial topics. Her books include History Makers: Gay Rights Activists and At Issue: Gay and Lesbian Families. Burns also teaches writing and gender studies at local universities and community colleges.

U.S. Naval Academy Threatens Arrest. Soulforce Equality Riders Undeterred.

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: October 18, 2005
Contact: Jacob Reitan, Equality Ride Director
Office: 434-384-7696 Cell: 952-212-8311, jake@equalityride.com
Contact: Robyn Murphy, Soulforce Communications
Cell: 314-712-7431
Soulforce, PO Box 3195, Lynchburg, VA 24503
www.equalityride.com/navy
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Annapolis, MD. October 18, 2005: When the Soulforce Equality Riders arrive this Friday at the U.S. Naval Academy to protest the military’s "Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell" policy, Deputy Superintendent Captain Helen F. Dunn makes it clear that freedom of speech is only allowed off Academy Grounds.* Equality Ride director Jacob Reitan is also clear, "The Naval Academy has over 4,500 midshipmen in training, none of whom are allowed to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people. This is government funded and sanctioned discrimination and it must end. We’re disappointed that they refuse open dialogue but our presence is necessary. We want the closeted leadership and student body to know we stand with them."

In the spirit of the Freedom Rides of the 1950s and 60s, people from all over the Washington D.C. area will arrive at Gate 1 (corner of Randall and King George Avenues) for an 11:30 a.m. press conference and demonstration of nonviolent resistance.

Accompanying the group is Rev. Tommy Watkins. In 1997 Rev. Watkins was a midshipman at the Academywho excelled in his coursework and served as President of his class. But after his commanding officers learned he was gay, Rev. Watkins was forced to leave the Academy, swiftly bringing about the end of his military career.

Adding insult to injury, the federal government’s tax-subsidized campaign against Watkins did not end after his discharge. Instead they engaged Watkins in a three year legal battle over the costs invested in his education. Rev. Watkins eventually prevailed but the experience was difficult. Rev. Watkin’s story makes clear the purpose of the Equality Ride. "As long as anti-gay policies are in effect, this same sort of discrimination could happen again at any moment to any other closeted midshipmen," Jacob Reitan stated. "That is why the GLBT community and all American citizens must dedicate themselves to ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, returning the Naval Academy to the core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment which they boldly declare in their school motto."

The Naval Academy action is part of the national Soulforce Equality Ride, visiting select institutions of higher learning that ban openly GLBT student enrollment and activities. The full ride is open to young people age 18-28 and will take place in March and April 2006. For more information go to www.soulforce.org or www.equalityride.com.

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities. Soulforce was founded in 1998.


* quoting from a letter received by Soulforce from Captain Dunn:

"The Naval Academy supports and defends every citizen’s right of freedom of speech. Your group is free to conduct its activities off of Naval Academy property. No protest or gathering will be allowed on Academy grounds. Furthermore, no member of Equality Ride will be allowed to interview midshipmen, faculty or staff, as this will be disruptive to the operation of the Naval Academy. As such, we will not approve your specific requests to meet with midshipmen or attend the formal parade."

"Be advised that accessing the Academy grounds for the purpose of protesting or engaging midshipmen, faculty and staff, may subject you to arrest and prosecution by the appropriate Federal authorities."

Helen F. Dunn, Captain, U.S. Navy, Deputy Superintendent/Chief of Staff

Soulforce Announces Dates for 2006 Action in Colorado Springs to Bring the Light of Truth to Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family

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Past Soulforce Actions:

Soulforce Direct Action in Colorado Springs May 1, 2005

Resources:

A False Focus on My Family: Why every person of faith should be deeply troubled by Dr. James Dobson’s dangerous and misleading words about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community