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Equality Riders
Turned Away by Tennessee Church

Equality Riders
Turned Away by Tennessee Church

Soulforce Q Equality Riders, an organization of young adults crusading for LGBT student rights, were barred from entering a public concert at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., on Tuesday, as they attempted to listen to a Union University choral performance. Police, union security, and a church pastor told members they "were unwelcome" and must leave immediately.

Soulforce Q Equality Riders, an organization of young adults crusading for LGBT student rights, were barred from entering a public concert at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., on Tuesday, as they attempted to listen to a Union University choral performance. Police, university security, and a church pastor told members they "were unwelcome" and must leave immediately.

"I was shocked that a church would prevent us from coming to a concert, especially when we had been invited by some of the performers. It was painful and disheartening to see that a Christ-centered community would not even allow us to enter its doors," Nick Savelli, an Equality Rider from Tampa, Fla., said.

Riders, who had hoped to simply "attend and listen" to the Union concert, took their frustration to the street in silent vigil. With candles in hand, riders were told again that they were not allowed to stand in the area.

"The fact that we were being denied the right to stand on a public property because First Baptist didn't want us there was a clear breach of our right to assemble," Katie Higgins, Soulforce Q Equality Ride codirector, said.

Riders eventually were allowed to remain on a grassy plot near one of the church entrances, where they held a candlelight vigil. (Kandice Day, The Advocate)

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