Blogathon #19a – Strength on the Ride

A big part of what Soulforce does — as with Gandhi and King — involves nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. It takes a special person to be able to handle this challenge, and many Soulforcers are willing to do what’s necessary — peacefully — to effect positive change.

A recent example comes from Soulforce’s Equality Ride. From a Soulforce release dated April 8, 2009:

(Waxahachie, Tx) — On Wednesday, April 8, three young adults [faced trial] on trespassing charges from Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU).  The young men were part of the Equality Ride, a national bus tour that promotes safety and inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students on faith-based campuses across the country.

Members of the Equality Ride, 16 in all, arrived at SAGU on October 29, 2008, in the hopes of attending a chapel service to initiate dialogue on faith and equality for LGBT students.  Upon their arrival, the Riders were stopped by security and escorted to an empty parking lot at the entrance of the campus, where they were given an official warning not to enter SAGU by a university spokesperson.  Insisting on joining students at the chapel, three Riders, all of whom identify as Christian, ignored the warning and attempted to enter campus.  Police on the scene promptly arrested Manny Lampon, 22, of New York, NY; Zak Rittenhouse, 21, of Lynchburg, VA; and Nicholas Rocco De Finis, 22, of Philadelphia, PA.

After the arrest, the remaining Riders stood in silent vigil on the perimeter of campus until Scott Camp, Dean of Students at SAGU, greeted them along with other student leaders and some university staff.  Camp expressed sympathy for the Riders feelings of exclusion, yet remained staunchly behind the universities decision to keep them off campus, repeatedly saying, “This is where we’re at.” As Camp engaged members of the Equality Ride on the periphery of campus, members of the SAGU community stood watching on the other side.

“In a very real sense, we were divided and distant from Southwestern delegates,” said Jarrett Lucas, Co-Director of the Equality Ride. “Administrators had decided that property and policy were more important than people. And to enforce that judgment, they called upon the local police.”

SAGU officials agreed to drop the charges on the condition that Soulforce Q, the organization that put together the Equality Ride, and the defendants, agree never to come back to the university uninvited and apologize for their actions.  Both Soulforce Q and the defendants have refused to apologize.

“I didn’t join the Equality Ride to be arrested,” noted Lampon.  “I joined to shine light on the injustice that many LGBT students face on campuses like SAGU.”

As Dr. King said, sometimes we have to do what is right – no matter the cost. That’s what Soulforce is all about. Please do your part and take part in Blogathon  2009 by sponsoring AF&O to benefit this valuable organization.

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