Soulforce Equality Ride Calls on Schools to Learn From History

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: February 27, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@equalityride.com
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@equalityride.com
Robyn Murphy, 612-965-0838, robyn@soulforce.org
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Jacob Reitan speaking at a press conference

(Lynchburg, VA) The first ever Soulforce Equality Ride is set to begin in early March. During a 51-day bus tour, thirty-five young adults will confront nineteen religious colleges and military academies that ban the enrollment of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender students. The main reason history is taught in any school is to learn from past mistakes and to avoid repeating them. But by practicing religion based discrimination, these institutions of higher learning are repeating past mistakes.

Washington, D.C. – The first ever Soulforce Equality Ride is set to embark in early March from Washington, D.C. During a 51-day bus tour, thirty-five young adults will confront nineteen religious colleges and military academies that ban the enrollment of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender students.

"For centuries the Bible has been used to exclude and condemn. People of color, women, and those of other faiths have all been victims of Biblical misuse. Today is it gay and lesbian people who are the victims – ‘the other,’" said Jacob Reitan, Founder and Co-Director of the Soulforce Equality Ride. "We challenge the schools to learn from history, to take ownership of the damage caused by their policies, and to stop religion based discrimination."

There are nearly 200 schools that ban the enrollment of openly LGBT persons in the United States and some, like Colorado Christian University, also exclude straight allies. Students on these campuses are already responding to the Soulforce Equality Ride with excitement and gratitude:

"I don’t think that most of the Wheaton community has any idea how unsafe and unwelcome GLBT people feel here." -a closeted student at Wheaton College, IL

"They all say I am going to hell…I can’t help how I feel inside, but I have to hide it. Thanks for trying to let people know that we are just like them and we have a right to be on the same campus. God created us and loves us all!"
-a closeted student at Lee University, TN

Haven Herrin, Co-Director of the Soulforce Equality Ride, maintains the legitimacy of the Equality Ride’s presence at the schools. "We understand that many of these colleges are private institutions. We do not dispute the school’s right to disagree, make policy, or even arrest us when we visit, but we can and do question the moral underpinnings of their choices regarding communication, academic freedom, and discrimination."

Many schools on this journey are finding common ground with the riders. President George Brushaber of Bethel University in St. Paul, MN writes, "We are committed to working with you on the details of your visit to Bethel to make it a good learning opportunity for our students." President Bob Andringa of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which represents fifteen of the schools on the route, has worked closely with Reitan and Reverend Dr. Mel White, President and Founder of Soulforce, to facilitate communication with the colleges.

Conversely, Liberty University, the first stop on the journey, has promised to arrest the riders upon their arrival. This school is not alone in its refusal. Reverend Jerry Falwell, Liberty’s Chancellor, has stated that he would rather see his school burn to the ground than accept the goals of the Equality Ride. It was less than 40 years ago that he took a similar stand in denying admission to his church to people of color. Falwell called the Civil Rights movement the ‘Civil Wrongs’ movement.

Rev. Dr. Mel White says of Falwell’s years of biblical misuse, "Reverend Falwell is abusing religion now just as he did in the past. Religion should be a source of compassion and love and support for fellow human beings."

Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

Contact Us:
Haven Herrin, Co-Director, haven@equalityride.com, 469-867-5725
Jacob Reitan, Co-Director, jake@equalityride.com, 952-212-8311
Robyn Murphy, Media Director robyn@soulforce.org, 612-965-0838

You can view materials for the press at www.equalityride.com/media

For more information go to www.soulforce.org. Soulforce, Inc. PO Box 3195, Lynchburg, VA 24503


Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.equalityride.com orwww.soulforce.org.

Campus Access Refused By Liberty University: Soulforce Equality Riders Vow To Enter Grounds

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: February 25, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@equalityride.com
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@equalityride.com
Robyn Murphy, 612-965-0838, robyn@soulforce.org
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Liberty University(Lynchburg, VA) The first ever Soulforce Equality Ride is set to begin in early March. During a 51-day bus tour, thirty-five young adults will confront nineteen religious colleges and military academies that ban the enrollment of lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender students.

On March 10 the Soulforce Equality Riders will make their first stop at Liberty University. "At all schools we seek dialogue because we have an important message to share," said Jacob Reitan, Co-Director of the Soulforce Equality Ride. "Liberty University must learn from history and end religion based discrimination. For centuries the Bible has been used to condemn and exclude. In the past it has been used to wrongly discriminate against people of color, those of other faiths, and women. Today, it is gay and lesbian people who are the victims of biblical misuse — ‘the other’."

Unlike many of the schools along the Soulforce Equality Ride route that welcome dialogue, Liberty has refused dialogue and is threatening arrest if the riders come onto the campus. "Soulforce will not be allowed on the property and this will be enforced by arrests if needed," stated Chief Randy Smith of the Liberty University Police.

"Even though we disagree on gay and lesbian issues, that should not make the notion of dialogue disagreeable as well," stated Soulforce Equality Ride Co-Director Haven Herrin. "While I am saddened by their choice, it will not keep us off campus. Our message of equality is simply too important to be refused."

The riders will continue to seek dialogue and hope that Liberty will make the choice to allow discussion when the bus arrives on March 10.

"We understand Liberty University is a private institution," Haven Herrin stated. "We do not dispute the school’s right to disagree, ban, denigrate, or arrest, but we can and do question the moral underpinnings of their choices regarding communication and discrimination. We remind Reverend Falwell that it was less than 40 years ago that he took similar stands as he denied admission to his church to people of color. Has he forgotten how he called the Civil Rights movement the Civil ‘Wrong’ movement? It is time that he learn from history and end yet another form of discrimination he practices."

For the most up to date information on the stop at Liberty please go to www.EqualityRide.com/liberty


Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.equalityride.com or www.soulforce.org.

Soulforce Equality Ride: This Discrimination Feels Familiar. We Can’t Ignore the Benefits of History.

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: February 16, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@equalityride.com
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@equalityride.com
Robyn Murphy, 612-965-0838, robyn@soulforce.org
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Jacob Reitan speaking at a press conference

(Lynchburg, VA) The first ever Soulforce Equality Ride is set to begin in early March. During a 51-day bus tour, thirty-five young adults will confront nineteen religious colleges and military academies that ban the enrollment of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender students. The main reason history is taught in any school is to learn from past mistakes and to avoid repeating them. But by practicing religion based discrimination, these institutions of higher learning are repeating past mistakes.

"For centuries the Bible has been used to exclude and condemn. People of color, women, and people of other faiths have all been victims of Biblical misuse. Today is it gay and lesbian people who are the victims — the other" said Jacob Reitan, Founder and Co-Director of the Soulforce Equality Ride. "We challenge the schools to take ownership of the damage caused by their policies."

There are nearly 200 schools that ban the enrollment of openly LGBT persons in the United States and some, like Colorado Christian University, also exclude straight allies. Students on these campuses are already responding to the Soulforce Equality Ride with excitement and gratitude:

"I don’t think that most of the Wheaton community has any idea how unsafe and unwelcome GLBT people feel here." -a closeted student at Wheaton College, IL

"They all say I am going to hell…I can’t help how I feel inside, but I have to hide it. Thanks for trying to let people know that we are just like them and we have a right to be on the same campus. God created us and loves us all!" -a closeted student at Lee University, TN

It is encouraging that many schools on this journey are finding common ground with the riders. President George Brushaber of Bethel University in St. Paul, MN writes, "We are committed to working with you on the details of your visit to Bethel to make it a good learning opportunity for our students."

Ensuring successful college visits required the Soulforce Equality Ride to begin dialogue and planning over a year ago. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, headed by President Bob Andringa, represents most of the schools on the route. Andringa himself approached Reitan and Rev. Dr. Mel White, President of Soulforce, to facilitate communication between the activists and the schools. "We share some hopes even though neither I nor our presidents are going to embrace some of your ultimate goals," Andringa said. "But we can agree that the ride should advance education, civil dialogue, learning to respect differences, and making safe places for students exploring their own sexual identities."

Conversely, Liberty University has promised to arrest the riders upon their arrival, and this school is not alone in its self-isolating tactics. Reverend Jerry Falwell, Liberty’s Chancellor, has stated that he would rather see his school burn to the ground than accept the goals of the Equality Ride. Jacob Reitan and Haven Herrin, Co-Directors of the Soulforce Equality Ride, maintain the legitimacy of their presence at the schools. "We understand that Liberty University is a private institution. We do not dispute the school’s right to disagree, ban, denigrate, or arrest, but we can and do question the moral underpinnings of their choices regarding communication and discrimination. We remind Reverend Falwell that it was less than 40 years ago that he took similar stands as he denied admission to his church to people of color. Has he forgotten how he called the Civil Rights movement the Civil ‘Wrong’ movement?"

Soulforce founder and president, Reverend Dr. Mel White went on to say "It is one thing for an average parishioner to discriminate against a gay person and say it is based on their religious beliefs. That’s ignorance. But it is quite another thing for someone who has the title of Reverend and is a leader. Falwell is abusing religion now just as he did in the past. Religion should be a source of compassion and love and support for fellow human beings."


Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.equalityride.com orwww.soulforce.org.

Soulforce Announces New Executive Director and Renewed Dedication to Ending Homophobia at its Source

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: February 7, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Robyn Murphy, 612-965-0838, robyn@soulforce.org
Rev. Dr. Mel White, 434-384-7696, mel@soulforce.org
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(Lynchburg, VA) Today Soulforce, the national justice organization founded by Rev. Dr. Mel White, announced expansion plans by naming Jeff Lutes of Austin, Texas as their new executive director. In addition, Rev. Dr. Mel White was named President of the Board, freeing him to expand his visibility and that of Soulforce. The once ghostwriter for evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, White will soon be embarking on a speaking tour for his fall book release, Religion Gone Bad: A Call to Resist Fundamentalism (working title).

As an internationally recognized cleric and activist, White will continue as primary spokesperson and fundraiser in Soulforce’s mission to halt homophobia at its source. White asserts that "The evil intent of fundamentalist Christianity is to impose their worldview on all Americans, a worldview that would deny rights and dignity to all gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people. Our new infrastructure will equip us to better equip activists for the critical work of stopping this form of religious violence. Under Jeff’s leadership, we’ll be taking this to the streets like never before."

As Soulforce’s new Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, MS, LPC, will oversee the day-to-day operations of Soulforce. In accepting the position, Jeff said, "I believe the message of Soulforce is visionary in that it has become clear we can not win this battle with legislative actions alone. We must create a critical mass of people who are fed up with bigotry, prejudice and discrimination and who are willing to speak out in the media and engage in other forms of nonviolent resistance. We must be on the offensive in confronting the religious and political assault on our civil rights, and not just in the defensive position of fighting the next anti-gay piece of legislation."

Soulforce also adds two new members to our Board of Directors, prominent civil rights activists Dr. Rodney Powell. M.D. and Rev. Phil Lawson. Powell commented, "I believe Soulforce is the most promising GLBT organization to influence and redirect the enormous energy, intellectual capacity, resources and power that exist among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, allied persons, organizations, and institutions to resist, oppose and stop the threat of Christian fundamentalism."

Soulforce’s next action includes the Equality Ride, a seven-week bus tour taking 35 GLBT youth to nineteen colleges that have anti-gay enrollment policies.

Soulforce is a movement; an organization of activists committed to ending homophobia caused by religious bigotry. For more information go to www.soulforce.org or www.equalityride.com.

Jeff Lutes Family

Jeff Lutes, Gary Stein, & son Niko

Jeff Lutes Bio:
Jeff is a licensed professional counselor in Austin, Texas who has supervised over 100 therapists and directed several inpatient and outpatient psychiatric-treatment programs in a variety of clinical settings, including hospitals and nonprofit counseling centers. He has been in private practice for many years, specializing in couples and family therapy. He has written numerous newspaper articles on the issues facing LGBT people and same-gender families and presents research-based workshops on strengthening relationships. He is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), and the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF). He is a lay worship leader in his church and a community leader able to organize sustained nonviolent resistance to religious and political assaults on LGBT people and their families. He has been a volunteer for Soulforce since the first direct action in 1999. He and his partner, Gary Stein, are the proud parents of a 9-year-old son.


Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.