Equality Ride Pushes L.A. Universities to Face History of Religion Based Discrimination

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 4, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Richard Lindsay, 646-258-7193
richard@equalityride.com
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Los Angeles, CA — The Soulforce Equality Ride visited two Los
Angeles area Christian colleges today, California Baptist University
and Biola University, to open dialogue with students about
religion-based oppression against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender
(LGBT) people. California Baptist University attempted to set severe
limitations on the visit, restricting Riders from leaving the student
center, handing out literature or making formal presentations. The 15
Riders visiting the university refused to abide by those limitations,
standing in the center of campus during lunch hour, making
presentations on violence and hate crimes against LGBT people, singing
Christian songs and handing out booklets on “What the Bible Says — and
Doesn’t Say — about Homosexuality.”

“California Baptist University tried to keep our interactions
with students to a minimum, and we did not agree to their
restrictions,” said Haven Herrin, Soulforce Equality Ride co-director.
“This subject is too important to the lives of LGBT students on these
campuses for us to be silenced.”

As dozens of students on breaks between classes gathered around,
listening to the Riders’ stories and asking questions about their faith
journeys, Herrin and Equality Rider Tommy Atz negotiated intensely just
off to the side with Cal Baptist administration to allow the
conversations to continue. Campus security officers and local police
circled the chaotic scene, ready to remove Equality Riders at the first
signal from university officials.

In the end, the administration allowed the presentations and
conversations to continue uninterrupted, until an LA winter rainstorm
poured down on the students and the Equality Riders moved into the
student center. The Equality Riders had lunch in the student center as
conversations with large groups of students continued throughout the
afternoon.

“We congratulate the administration of California Baptist for
allowing our discussion on campus to continue,” said Herrin. “They
showed that dialogue is better than division, conversation is better
than conflict. In the end, they let the best interest of the students
win out.” Members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force National
Religious Leadership Roundtable attended the event, entering campus to
speak with students from their diverse perspectives as LGBT faith
leaders. Roundtable member and executive director of the United
Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches Rev. Dr. Cindi Love
congratulated the young Equality Riders for their actions as she
addressed press outside the campus.

“I don’t know how many of us would have had the courage to do
what they’re doing at their age,” Love said. “These brave young people
are calling on members of the faith community to repent of their
homophobia. They are truly changing lives on this campus today.”
Several miles away at Biola University, Riders were allowed onto campus
for a full day of activities including a meeting with university
administrators, classroom discussions and a chapel service. Although
the dialogue was productive Biola University’s policy still prevents
openly LGBT students from attending the school.

Equality Rider
Alexey Bulokhov said, “I’m excited for Biola and the other campuses
that have welcomed us because there is a chance here for spiritual and
educational growth.” Bulokhov added, “But I can’t forget that if I was
a student here, I could be expelled just because I am gay.”