LYNCHBURG, Va. — Beginning March 8, 56 young activists will board two buses and begin a two-month long journey that will take them to 32 colleges that have policies banning the enrollment of openly LGBT students. Two of those colleges are in the Carolinas: Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., and Montreat College in Montreat, N.C.
The Equality Ride will make its first stop in the Carolinas at Bob Jones University on April 4, followed by Montreat on April 10.
Both of the schools have exceptionally strident policies regarding gays and lesbians, though Bob Jones is a bit more harsh — clearly in keeping with the school’s reputation: “Dishonesty, lewdness, sensual behavior, adultery, homosexuality, sexual perversion of any kind, pornography, illegal use of drugs and drunkenness all are clearly condemned by God’s Word and prohibited here.”
Montreat’s policy, though not as fire and brimstone, is still discriminatory: “As a Christian institution, Montreat College seeks to stand for and continually encourages Biblical guidelines for sexual behavior. Premarital and extramarital intercourse and homosexual activity clearly violate God’s standards and therefore are considered unacceptable behavior.”
Such policies are not in place just to give LGBT students a false sense of inferiority and heterosexual students a false sense of superiority — these policies are strongly enforced. In April 2006 while the first Equality Ride was on the road, the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., expelled student Jason Johnson for revealing he was gay on his MySpace page. Other schools state they will let LGBT students attend, but a closer examination of their policies shows they discriminate against any openly gay students.
This year there are two Equality rides — one that will cover the western United States and another that will cover the east. Along for the ride on the east coast trek is Chapel Hill’s Matt Hill Comer.
“As a person raised a Baptist in North Carolina, deep in the heart of the ‘Bible Belt,’ I know personally the pains and struggles which go hand-in-hand with coming to terms with your self and faith,” Comer says on the Soulforce website. “I hope that my experience on this journey will be one of magnificent grace and faith as we may see God working in ways never imagined and in turning hearts and minds over to love and acceptance for all His children.”
In order to make the Equality Ride experience possible for all young activists, regardless of economic standing, Soulforce covers 100 percent of the training, transportation,
accommodation, food, Equality Ride apparel and material expenses for the two-month journey. Donations are encouraged to help provide for hotel rooms, meals, books and many other rider needs. Until March 8 (when the 2007 Equality Ride arrives at the first school), philanthropist and Soulforce supporter Bruce Bastian will match every financial contribution to the Equality Ride up to $25,000.
Chartering the buses will cost $100,000. Flights to training sessions at the start of the ride will cost about $28,000. Hotels will run about $80,000. Food will be about $48,000. Printed materials to distribute to the colleges, such as Soulforce’s “What the Bible Says — And Doesn’t Say — About Homosexuality,” will be about $36,000. In total — that’s approximately $387,500.
Half of the money needed will come from grants, while individuals are needed to provide the rest. Each of the 56 riders has set a goal of raising $3,500 in sponsorship donations. Can you make a generous donation today of $500, $300, $100 or $50 to make this project happen? They need to have 80 percent of the money on hand before the buses depart in March.
To read about each of the participants or sponsor one, go to www.soulforce.org/2007riders.
About the Equality Ride
The Soulforce Equality Ride is a continuing journey to change the hearts and minds of America on the issue of LGBT equality. Following in the footsteps of the Freedom Rides of the 1960s, the Equality Ride uses principles of non-violence to confront military and religious colleges and universities with policies banning enrollment of openly LGBT students. The lessons of history have shown that religion-based discrimination against women, people of color and religious minorities is an unacceptable abuse of the sanctity of religion. At each of the 19 schools on the 51-day 2006 bus tour, the young adult ambassadors of the Equality Ride brought this simple message to students, faculty and administrators: Learn from history, end religion-based oppression.
At military and religious colleges around the nation bans on LGBT enrollment force students into closets of fear and self-hate. These bans devalue the life of LGBT people and slam the door on academic freedom. The Equality Ride empowers young adults to challenge these policies and the thinking behind them.
Thirty-three young adults traveled on the seven-week bus tour to confront colleges that ban the enrollment of openly LGBT students. Through dialogue with administrators, faculty and students, the young activists of the Equality Ride made 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.” To make public their case for equality, the young activists on the Equality Ride held vigils, Bible studies, class discussions, community forums and press conferences.
In the process, the members of Equality Ride brought hope and healing to LGBT students on their college campuses.