The 2008 edition
of the Soulforce Q Equality Ride reached its first
destination at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on
Wednesday, where five riders were permitted on campus
to deliver books to the library on LGBT issues. In its
third year, the Equality Ride seeks to promote
dialogue about homosexuality and Christianity by having gay
students visit schools across the country where other
gay students are discriminated against or outright
barred from attending. Seventeen riders are
participating this year.
officials will review the books delivered by the five
riders to determine whether they fit into the
university's curriculum. "Students have told us that
when they visit [the library], books that affirm LGBT
people are clearly absent," Katie Higgins, one of the
Equality Ride's codirectors, said in a statement.
"Having these books on the shelves would mean that our
voices of hope don't fade when our bus pulls
library stop, the five riders sang hymns and held
conversations with about 40 Liberty students in a campus
courtyard, while the other riders gathered at a
Starbucks off-campus in Lynchburg and met
with students there. "Every rider has a unique story,"
rider Nicholas Rocco DeFinis said in a statement.
"Since all of the Liberty students we spoke to seemed
genuinely interested in this discussion, we wanted
them to be able to hear all of our voices."
reception by Liberty was markedly different from the
inaugural Equality Ride's visit to the school in 2006, when
more than 20 riders and allies were arrested for
trespassing as they tried to enter campus. Founded by
Jerry Falwell, the Baptist school reserves the right
to reprimand gay and lesbian students and subject them to
"conversion" therapy; they can also be expelled. Falwell
died of heart failure last May at age 73.
The Advocate on Thursday that students have
been kind and receptive to their visit, many of them
familiar with the organization. "In some cases, as soon as
students realize who we are, a few remembered
Soulforce from when we went to their church during the
American Family Outing," she said. "We have met with a
lot of students who tell us stories very similar to ours.
All in all, we're still on our personal journey of
being accepted in the end." (Sean Kennedy and Michelle