Riders Arrested Attempting to Attend Chapel at Southwestern Assemblies of God Univ.

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 29, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
******************************************

(Waxahachie, TX) — Today, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) pressed trespassing charges against three young adults who entered the campus to begin a dialogue about faith and fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. The young people were members of the Equality Ride, a national bus tour that promotes safety and inclusion for all students on faith-based campuses.

Upon arriving at SAGU, all 16 of the Equality Riders tried to attend chapel services on campus. However, they were stopped by security who told Riders that they would not be allowed to participate in worship. Riders were escorted by guards to a parking lot on the periphery of campus. As Riders got off the bus, they were promptly met by a campus spokesperson who provided an official warning not to come onto the campus property. Once more, Equality Riders expressed their desire to join students in chapel, and were told that was not possible. Three Equality Riders, all of whom identify as Christian, moved forward anyway and were summarily arrested. The three Riders arrested were Manny Lampon, 22, of New York, NY; Zak Rittenhouse, 21, of Frankfurt, OH; and Nicholas Rocco DeFinis, 22, of Philadelphia, PA.

Equality Riders remained at the edge of campus in silent vigil until the Dean of Students, Scott Camp, began to address them. He was soon joined by student leadership and some university staff. Camp led the group in prayer in which he expressed the hope that "the love of Christ would be felt in this circle." In actuality, Equality Riders were forced to remain standing along the boundary that administrators had created while members of the SAGU community gathered freely on the other side.

"It was important for us to acknowledge that there had been a clear line drawn, one that divided Riders from Southwestern representatives. Our hope was that for one day we could erase that line and come together for a genuine and transformational exchange," said Jarrett Lucas, Co-director of the Equality Ride.

Camp indicated that he could understand the feelings of exclusion experienced by Equality Riders, but insisted there was no alternative to the setup, repeatedly saying, "This is where we’re at." Unfortunately, very soon after the conversation had begun Riders were told that it was time to wind down. Then, most of the people from SAGU walked away, leaving Riders outside.

Riders will stand vigil throughout the day on Sycamore Street in hopes of continuing dialogue with students. In addition, they are trying to organize an off-campus event where students can feel comfortable discussing issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

"It’s sad to see that Southwestern Assemblies of God University did not welcome us as other schools here in Texas have. In our experience we’ve seen the value of open discourse and hope that in the future SAGU will embrace the opportunity to allow an affirming voice on campus," shared Katie Higgins, Co-director of the Equality Ride. The Riders recently met with faculty and students at Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Equality Ride bus is on the road through November 13, 2008. Future stops include:

Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
Nov. 7 Central Baptist College Conway, AR
Nov. 10-11 Union University Jackson, TN
Nov. 13 Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, KY

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.org.

###

The Houston Chronicle, "Gay-rights group members arrested at college"

Gay-rights group members arrested at college

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Uncredited, The Associated Press

WAXAHACHIE, Texas — Three members of a gay-rights group on a nationwide bus tour of faith-based universities were arrested Wednesday after going to a private campus that had banned them, officials said.

Three members of Soulforce were charged with trespassing after they tried to go to a chapel service at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, a 1,900-student Pentecostal school, according to the Waxahachie Police Department. Their bond was to be set at an arraignment Wednesday afternoon.

The group earlier sent a letter to Southwestern Assemblies requesting a forum, but the president declined and asked Soulforce to stay off the campus, said university spokesman Ryan McElhany.

"It’s not a question that’s up for debate for us," McElhany said. "We love the people, but we do believe that homosexuality is a sin."

The Southwestern Assemblies handbook lists homosexuality as an offense for which a student can be expelled, but if a current student is struggling with such feelings, he or she may be referred to counseling instead, McElhany said.

Soulforce has already held forums at nearly a dozen campuses since the Equality Ride tour began earlier this month to promote inclusion at schools it believes have policies that discriminate against gay students. Several Soulforce members have already been arrested for trespassing at three schools in other states.

"We never want to get arrested; our goal is to spread a message of hope and fairness and to talk to students and meet them where they are," said Soulforce spokeswoman Caitlin MacIntyre. "Three men really wanted to attend the (Southwestern Assemblies of God University) chapel service, and we would have reached more people, but the university put up boundaries."

She said more colleges welcome than reject the group. Dallas Baptist University has been the most receptive during this tour because last week’s forum was a daylong event in which Soulforce met with its administrators, faculty and students, MacIntyre said.

Before the Wednesday arrests, about 15 Southwestern Assemblies representatives — including administrators and student leaders — had a "low-key discussion" with the 15 or so Soulforce members, McElhany said. Afterward, the bus remained parked in a public area near campus and some students went there throughout the day to talk to group members, he said. The school also provided the group with drinks and snacks, he said.

The original article is available on The Houston Chronicle website:
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/6084350.html

Equality Ride Connects Faith and Fairness at 2 Baptist Schools

National Tour of Christian Colleges Advocates Safety for Gay and Transgender Students

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 28, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138
caitlin@equalityride.com
******************************************

(Dallas, TX) — This week, the Soulforce Equality Ride brought unprecedented conversations about faith and fairness to two Baptist institutions: Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The quality of dialogue and exchange at each school demonstrates the diverse and changing nature of contemporary evangelical cultures.

The Equality Ride is a national bus tour to Christian colleges. The 18 to 26-year-old Equality Riders advocate safe educational settings for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

On Friday, October 24, the Soulforce Q Equality Riders arrived at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) as guests for a day of dialogue and discussion about faith and fairness. During a press conference preceding scheduled events, Dr. J. Blair Blackburn, Executive Vice President of DBU, said that although "DBU’s established beliefs may not coincide with the viewpoints of Soulforce on these issues, we understand anyone’s right to disagree and their desire for an opportunity to discuss." Katie Higgins, Equality Ride Co-director, explained the necessity of such conversations to ensure safety and fairness for all students.

Riders joined DBU faculty and administration for lunch and conversation before presentations to student leadership on campus.

"The students had such great ideas about how to get involved and be advocates for their gay and transgender peers. I hope that some of them will take those ideas and begin to form a support system for LGBT students on campus," said Equality Rider Alex Lundy.

Dialogue with student leaders continued as Riders were able to sit down with them and discuss their ideas and perceptions about faith, sexuality, and gender. Riders briefly shared their stories and then discussed what safe spaces look like for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and how students can facilitate these environments.

In a debriefing session with Equality Riders and DBU administrators, Riders explained their concerns about the DBU policy and discussed ways the campus could be safer. Administration shared their personal experiences and told Riders that the dialogue would continue.

"I think that the administration is genuinely interested in ensuring that gay and transgender students feel safe and fully accepted as members of the DBU community. Hopefully we can work with them in establishing fair and inclusive policies, which will help create a more welcoming campus climate," said Ride Co-director Jarrett Lucas.

In contrast, on Monday October 27th, Equality Riders traveled to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) for a limited and formal exchange of ideas.

Riders went onto campus at 2:00 PM for a meeting attended by a cross-section of individuals selected by the university, which included students, faculty, staff, and two of the university’s vice presidents. Soulforce Q Equality Riders showed a brief video from the SWBTS website in which President Paige Patterson apologizes to an African American alumnus for the oppression he faced as a student in 1943 when Southwestern was still racially segregated.

Following this video, Equality Riders shared two letters from gay SWBTS alumni detailing their experiences and the pain of being unable to live authentically on a campus that punishes gay and lesbian students. One writer revealed that "stress and suicidal thoughts forced [him] to drop out." In conclusion, the Riders reflected on the lack of condemnation from Jesus regarding gay and transgender people.

Equality Rider Danielle Cooper of Newark, New Jersey explains, "We had twenty five minutes and during that time we wanted the representatives from Southwestern Baptist to see our humanity. We wanted them to understand the pain and oppression lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face as a result of beliefs that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary holds. How long will we have to wait until President Patterson recognizes that the convention is wrong on the issue of gay and transgender individuals as well?"

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary began by introducing a community member who was not officially affiliated with Southwestern but was a "friend" of SWBTS. He told those present that he was once a gay man but was no longer considered himself a part of the community. He shared his belief that "Jesus Christ doesn’t speak tolerance. It’s a very narrow-minded Word." Following this personal story, a faculty member in the Ethics department rehearsed the Biblical passages that are often used to condemn gay and lesbian people.

Afterwards Riders and community supporters stood in silent vigil outside of the University for two hours. Some Equality Riders stood silently in a "glass closet" constructed as a visual reminder of LGBT students who are present on campus but unable to be heard. Zak Rittenhouse, one of the Riders who stood vigil within the "glass closet" reflected on his own experience: "While in the glass closet, I was reminded once again of what it was like to be silenced and to live in fear."

Riders remained in vigil until 5:30 PM along W. Seminary Drive to offer a visible symbol of hope to LGBT students as well as to demonstrate to the SWBTS community at large the pain of being gay or transgender on the campus.

Katie Higgins, Equality Ride co-director explains that, "Although the situations at Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were quite different, both were certainly important first steps in creating a dialogue about faith and fairness on these campuses. I hope that the schools will continue to challenge their perceptions and work towards becoming safer learning environments for all students."

The Equality Ride bus is on the road through November 13, 2008. Future stops include:

Oct. 29 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX
Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
Nov. 7 Central Baptist College Conway, AR
Nov. 10-11 Union University Jackson, TN
Nov. 13 Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, KY

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.org.

###

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "Gay activists conduct vigil at Fort Worth’s Baptist seminary"

Gay activists conduct vigil at Fort Worth’s Baptist seminary

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By Terry Lee Goodrich, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH — About 30 gay-rights advocates lined Seminary Drive outside Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s entrance Monday after a private meeting with seminary representatives, saying they hope that the dialogue was a first step in wiping out discrimination.

Two members of the Soulforce Q Equality Ride, which has been on a national bus tour of faith-based colleges and seminaries this month, stood with their mouths taped inside a clear plastic structure they held upright.

The structure was symbolic of a "glass closet," said Caitlyn MacIntyre, director of the 17-person group. She said some gay and lesbian students at Southwestern used that term to describe their feeling that "they cannot speak about who they are."

The riders were gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and straight people.

Across Seminary Drive, a few community members held signs to show their opposition to homosexuality.

Bill Bool of Fort Worth said the "sole issue is Christ and that we’ve all sinned. God never intended homosexuality.  . . . If a person receives Christ, there is going to be a change."

During the hourlong private meeting, seminary representatives used Scripture to explain their stance on faith and sexuality, Southwestern officials said.

"There’s a difference of opinion, but it was a cordial and kind dialogue," said Thomas White, the seminary’s vice president for student services and communications.

During Soulforce’s presentation, they likened the seminary’s stance against homosexuality to its discrimination against African-Americans in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2004, Southwestern President Paige Patterson apologized at a commencement to a 100-year-old black man and awarded him an overdue master’s degree he had earned at Southwestern decades ago.

During the private meeting, MacIntyre said, Soulforce members asked, "How long do we have to wait for it to be made right for us?"

Another gay-rights advocate at the meeting was Lauren Parke, a graduate of Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.

"I went to the front of the room and opened my Bible and said I’d like to share the words of Jesus" about homosexuality, she said. She flipped through the pages of the four Gospels in silence for seven minutes because, she said, Jesus said nothing against homosexuality.

Among those who turned out to support the riders was Liz Cumpton, 20, a religion major at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

"This is very important to me, because I’m planning on going into the ministry for the Methodist church, and I’ve had friends kicked out of faith-based universities based on their sexuality," she said.

White said that when students apply for admission to the seminary, they sign a document that they will abide by the seminary’s code of conduct.

He said that the Bible condemns all forms of sexual immorality — including adultery, lust and homosexuality — but that it also offers hope of forgiveness to those willing to repent.

Seminary representatives, among them students, faculty, staff and administrators, "acted out our beliefs by considerately sharing the Gospel," but "our position remains unchanged," White said.

The original article is available on The Fort Worth Star-Telegram website:
http://www.star-telegram.com/metro_news/story/1001185.html

Simmons College of Kentucky

Name: Dallas Baptist University
Location: Dallas, TX
Religious Affiliation: Baptist
Enrollment: 5,244
Website: http://www.dbu.edu/
Accreditation:
Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Concerning GLBT Equality:

The Dallas baptist University 2008-09 Student Handbook contains the following:

Affirmations and Denials

8.We affirm the family, as instituted by God, as the foundation of all civilized
society. The family, as instituted by God is created by the unbreakable union
of one man to one woman in covenant together. To this God may add the
blessing of children. It is the solemn responsibility of parents to rear their
children according to biblical principles and pray for their salvation. We
affirm the biblical teaching of the roles of husband and wife in the family as
rooted in the order of creation and not in temporary cultural conditions. We
further recognize that, living in a broken world involves ministry to broken
families with forgiveness and healing. We deny any teaching that would
excuse sexual promiscuity, adultery, spousal abuse, abortion, or any kind of
homosexual acts or unions as contrary to the express teachings of the Bible
and contrary to the historic faith of the Christian community in all past ages.

The entire policy can be seen in the Simmons College of Kentucky Student Handbook, which can be viewed here.

Central Baptist College

Name: Central Baptist College
Location: Conway, AR
Religious Affiliation: Baptist
Enrollment: 569
Website: http://www.cbc.edu/
Accreditation:
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Concerning GLBT Equality:

The Central Baptist College 2006-7 Student Handbook contains the following:

Sexual Misconduct

Any form of sexual misconduct or immpral acts, or the potential appearance of such, (for example staying overnight with someone of the opposite sex) will not be tolerated. Additionally, any form of homosexual or lesbim activitiy or the appearance of such activity is prohibited.

The entire policy can be seen in Central Baptist College Student Handbook, which can be viewed here.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Name: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Religious Affiliation: Baptist
Enrollment: 3,567
Website: http://www.swbts.edu/
Accreditation:
Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Concerning GLBT Equality:

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 2008-9 Student Handbook contains the following:

Ethical Conduct

General Information

3. The institution may take disciplinary action should any ethical standard of an academic and/ or personal nature be violated. In the case of academic dishonesty (see item 2 above) breaches of this standard will result in the failure of assignment along further possible disciplinary measures as outlined below. The institution recognizes a professor’s authority to undertake disciplinary actions concerning any of his students in the context of his classroom. Generally, violations of the institution’s ethical conduct policy include, but not limited to:

4. Heterosexual misconduct, homosexual behavior, or any other form of sexual misconduct.

The entire policy can be seen in the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Student Affairs Handbook, which can be viewed here.

Simmons College of Kentucky

Name: Simmons College of Kentucky
Location: Louiseville, KY
Religious Affiliation: Baptist
Enrollment: 235
Website: http://www.simmonscollegeky.edu/
Accreditation:
Association for Biblical Higher Education

Concerning GLBT Equality:

The Simmons College of Kentucky 2006-7 Student Handbook contains the following:

Affirmations and Denials

8.We affirm the family, as instituted by God, as the foundation of all civilized
society. The family, as instituted by God is created by the unbreakable union
of one man to one woman in covenant together. To this God may add the
blessing of children. It is the solemn responsibility of parents to rear their
children according to biblical principles and pray for their salvation. We
affirm the biblical teaching of the roles of husband and wife in the family as
rooted in the order of creation and not in temporary cultural conditions. We
further recognize that, living in a broken world involves ministry to broken
families with forgiveness and healing. We deny any teaching that would
excuse sexual promiscuity, adultery, spousal abuse, abortion, or any kind of
homosexual acts or unions as contrary to the express teachings of the Bible
and contrary to the historic faith of the Christian community in all past ages.

The entire policy can be seen in the Simmons College of Kentucky Student Handbook, which can be viewed here.

Ouachita Baptist College

Name: Ouachita Baptist College
Location: Arkadelphia, AR
Religious Affiliation: Southern Baptist Convention
Enrollment: 1,448
Website: http://www.obu.edu/
Accreditation:
Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Concerning GLBT Equality:

The Ouachita Baptist College 2008-9 Tiger Student Handbook contains the following:

Sexual Misconduct

The Ouachita community recognizes that human sexuality is a gift from God for procreation of human life and for the expression of one’s love through marriage. Misuses of God’s gift include, but are not limited to sexual abuse, sexual harassment, promiscuity (including violation of the Biblical teaching against homosexual acts), possession or distribution of pornographic or obscene materials, rape and/ or other immoral sexual acts. Sanctions range from verbal warning to expulsion. Certain acts are illegal under state and/or federal law and my be prosecuted. The university will strive to deal with all individuals constructively and redemptively.

The entire policy can be seen in the Ouchita Baptist College Student Handbook, which can be viewed here.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Name: Southwestern Assemblies of God University
Location: Waxahachie, TX
Religious Affiliation: Christian and Missionary Alliance
Enrollment: 1,800
Website: http://sagu.edu/home/
Accreditation:
Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Concerning GLBT Equality:

The Southwestern Assemblies of God University 2008-9 Student Handbook contains the following:

Biblical Standards

The following may incur a fine from $50 up to $250 and could result in the student appearing before the Student Committee and possible termination from the University. Failure to comply with disciplinary action could result in another fine or further disciplinary action.

2. Any Scripturally prohibited sexual behavior as described in Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 6:32; Matthew 5:27-28; Matthew 15:19; Mark 7: 21-23; Romans 13:9; Timothy 1:8-11 and 1 Corinthians 6:13, 6:18 including:

a. adultery

b. Fornication (which by scriptural definition encompasses intercourse, oral sex, or any physical contact producing sexual stimulation)

c. Homosexuality

d. Lesbianism

The entire policy can be seen in the Southwestern Assemblies of God University Student Handbook, which can be viewed here.