Mar 28, 2006

Equality Ride Protesters arrested on LU campus

by Alicia Wotring
Twenty-four protesters from Soulforce’s Equality Ride were arrested around noon Friday, March 10, as one by one, members of the group stepped on campus to read a prepared statement. The Liberty administration warned the group, which consisted of about 60 members, that if it came on Liberty property, it would be arrested.

Maj. Greg Berry from the Liberty University Police Department said that the protesters had not shown any hostility and described them as “peaceful.”

The Equality Ride, fashioning their tour after the freedom rides of the Civil Rights era, came to Liberty to discuss homosexuality with students. The Equality Ride came to Liberty last April, but was allowed on campus. They were invited to convocation, and some students greeted them with hugs and cookies.

However, this year they were greeted by LUPD and other law enforcement blocking the main entrance to campus.

“Liberty decided this group had worn out their welcome here,” Vice Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said.
“Soulforce remains welcome to attend services at (Thomas Road Baptist Church), as they do often, but Liberty has decided to protect its students from intrusions by groups seeking publicity.”

Even though Soulforce was not allowed on campus, several students and at least one professor, met the group outside the main entrance to speak with them.

Co-director of the Equality Ride Haven Harrin said that because of the “kindness” Liberty students showed them last year, they had “backed off” since then, but returned because “as an academic institution, it’s important to explore different thought.”

Harrin said that because of the lack of conversation at the school about homosexuality, it makes gay students on campus question whether God loves them, which is painful, she said. Though aside from stressing God’s love for gays, the group would not discuss religion or the Bible.

However, according to Associate Dean of Men Alistair McPherson, while the university does not accept any extramarital sex, including homosexuality, it does offer services for students who may struggle with same-sex attraction. The deans and campus pastors welcome students to speak with them about homosexual issues they may be facing. TRBC also offers a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

“We are a loving faith community concerned for the needs, well-being and restoration of every individual, no matter the struggles,” McPherson said. “With Jesus Christ, the hope he offers brings healing and transformation to the human soul with a power and deep conviction that cannot be denied. Liberty University offers that kind of hope to our students.”

Contact Alicia Wotring at aawotring@liberty.edu.

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