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students help erase antigay graffiti

Religious
students help erase antigay graffiti

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Several students from Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., on Friday helped to remove antigay graffiti that had been spray-painted on the Equality Ride bus, which is being used to ferry young LGBT activists to religious schools across the country.

Several students from Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., on Friday helped scrub antigay graffiti from a bus ferrying gays and lesbians to religious schools across the country. The Equality Ride bus had been spray-painted in pink with the words "Fags-mobile" on Thursday while the 35 mostly college-age members of the Soulforce team were at a nearby hotel room, planning their visit to Lee.The bus's driver reported witnessing a middle-aged woman and a teenager drive away from the scene. Cleveland police are currently investigating the crime.

"These wonderful students have done a great service by wiping away the stain of homophobia from our bus," said Jacob Reitan, codirector for the Equality Ride. "Let's hope they can go back to their school and wipe away the stain of antigay discrimination that still goes on every day at Lee."

The second day of the Lee University stop of the Equality Ride ended with a prayer vigil and devotion from Lee University graduate the Reverend Scott Sanders. Students joined the riders in prayer and song for 30 minutes before university administrators asked the group to disperse.

In his devotion, Sanders shared the biblical story of Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes to feed 5,000, in reference to Lee University president Paul Conn's statement to riders justifying Lee's strict limitations on interaction with students that "half a loaf is better than no loaf at all." In a symbolic gesture of thanks and hope that the dialogue that occurred with students would be multiplied and spread with others, Sanders broke a loaf of bread and passed it for the assembled students and Ride members to share.

Before the prayer vigil, Ride members walked the campus talking with students; other riders joined students in attending classes in which the Ride's issues were discussed. The riders were not allowed, however, to make any formal presentations on the campus. "I cannot accept that we should be happy that we received a 'half a loaf' just because we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender," said Equality Ride codirector Haven Herrin to the Ride members. "But we are so thankful to those students who welcomed us on campus with open arms and truly listened to what we had to say."

The riders formed close relationships with several students who were closeted, had been expelled from Lee because of their sexual orientation, or had come out after graduation. Among them was Matthew, a student who was expelled from Lee after administrators found a posting on MySpace.com that indicated his sexual orientation as gay. "I was planning to stay in the background during the Equality Ride visit," said Matthew, who preferred that his last name not be used because he has not yet come out to his family. "But I have told my story to so many people in the last two days--students, professors, administrators. I never would have done that if it wasn't for the Equality Ride. I woke up this morning, and it just felt like a new day." (The Advocate)

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