Soulforce Concludes 2010 Equality Ride, Helping Advance Changes in LGBTQ Policies at U.S. Colleges and Universities

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Soulforce, a national non-profit organization dedicated to nonviolently confronting and ending anti-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) discrimination, concluded its 4th annual Equality Ride on April 23. Twenty-five members of Soulforce Q, the organization’s young adult program, visited 15 university campuses on a 50-day tour to advance changes in policies and practices that discriminate against LGBTQ students and faculty.

Soulforce Equality Riders at one of this year's tour stops, outside the Assemblies of God World Headquarters.

For a number of these schools, being able to discuss LGBTQ issues with school administrators is a victory in and of itself, and places us on the path for working toward and winning more tangible, substantive victories.” - Caitlin MacIntrye, Soulforce

Soulforce, a national non-profit organization dedicated to nonviolently confronting and ending anti-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) discrimination, concluded its 4th annual Equality Ride on April 23. Twenty-five members of Soulforce Q, the organization’s young adult program, visited 15 university campuses on a 50-day tour to advance changes in policies and practices that discriminate against LGBTQ students and faculty.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work everyone did this year,” said Caitlin MacIntyre, director for the 2010 Soulforce Q Equality Ride. “The progress we were able to make through dialogue and non-violent action will help improve the treatment of a number of LGBTQ students around the country, and together constitute an important step forward in improving treatment of LGBTQ students everywhere. For a number of these schools, being able to discuss LGBTQ issues with school administrators is a victory in and of itself, and places us on the path for working toward and winning more tangible, substantive victories.”

“Soulforce grew out of respect and admiration for the courage and convictions of spiritual leaders who challenged institutionalized discrimination in all of its forms – Jesus, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi," said Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce.

“As our Riders approach leaders of colleges and universities, they encounter resistance and even arrest, just as Jesus, Dr. King and Gandhi did,” Love noted. “Thankfully, these challenges are worth the price paid by these courageous young adults. They have created safe spiritual space in which students and faculty can address their fears and talk openly about intimidation and harassment due to religious bigotry. ”

Here are, in alphabetical order, results from select schools on the tour:

Abilene Christian University (Abilene, Tex.): After Equality Riders met with the school’s counseling center to discuss the dangers of “reparative therapy” – which the center listed numerous resources for in its “homosexuality” section – the center removed the list of resources from its site.

Baylor University (Waco, Tex.): Soulforce met with students looking to form a QSA (queer-straight alliance), and hosted a well-received, well-attended event that included announcement of an upcoming Day of Silence event supporting LGBTQ students.

Belhaven University (Jackson, Miss.): Some members of the administration indicated their desire to be more open about the fact that LGBTQ students were welcome and were able to be "out" on campus without fear of retribution. Soulforce members also talked extensively with members of residence life and are hopeful that through continued conversation and the dispersal of resources, that Soulforce can make the residence staff more aware of LGBTQ issues.

Campbell University (Buies Creek, N.C.): Soulforce met with students looking to establish a QSA at the school, though it is unclear whether the school’s administration will approve of such an organization.

Hardin-Simmons University (Abilene, Tex.): Dr. Lanny Hall, HSU president, expressed that they would look at their policies and the affects they have on LGBTQ students, and various members of residence life and staff indicated an interest in learning more abut how to be a "safe space" for LGBTQ students. There is also the possibility of a joint QSA forming, involving HSU students as well as those from neighboring Abilene Christian University.

Houghton College (Houghton, N.Y.): The school’s student government association passed a resolution recommending creation of safe spaces for LGBTQ students.

Malone University (Canton, Ohio): In with faculty, staff, administration and student government leaders, Interim President Dr. Wilbert J. Friesen indicated that he would be willing to look at the school’s premarital sex policy and consider changing it to one of parity (i.e. no premarital sex, homosexual or heterosexual). Those in the meeting also extensively discussed ways to make campus safer, and talked to numerous faculty members about how they could be safe spaces.

Mississippi College (Clinton, Miss.): After two years of civil disobedience and the administration being unwilling to work with us at all, Soulforce was able to communicate with Dr. Eric Pratt, a VP at MC, and start to make some progress. While Soulforce was still not allowed on campus for a visit, two Soulforce representatives were flown back to the school to participate in an April 19 panel about LGBTQ issues and Christianity. Dr. Pratt informed Soulforce that Dr. Pratt that the reference to homosexuality would be removed in the next issue of the school’s student handbook. Soulforce was also able to bring attention to the unofficial QSA founded by students after the 2008 Equality Ride stop at Mississippi College – the group recently became public and is making progress in attracting more students and generating change from within.

Union College (Lincoln, Neb.): Soulforce spoke with school representatives about formalizing "safe space" training, which has already happening informally with some allied faculty on campus. Also, there was discussion about including training on LGBTQ issues during RA training next year.

According to Soulforce’s mission statement, the organization is “guided by the spirit of truth and empowered by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance and works to end the religious and political oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people.” More information about the organization, including a blog covering the Equality Ride, is available at http://www.soulforce.org.

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