Church to gays: You’re not welcome here

LGBT and straight ally youth traveling with the 2008 Soulforce Equality Ride were turned away from the Jackseon, Tenn., First Baptist Church on Tuesday night.

Attempting to attend and listen to a public concert showcased by students at the private, Christian school, Union University, the Riders were told by police and the pastor of First Baptist that they were not welcome.

“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 in a press release.

As Riders tried to stand vigil on a public sidewalk in front of the church after being denied entry, Jackson, Tenn., police approached them and threatened them with arrest. They moved to a patch of grass nearby, where they were allowed to stay.

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‘False Equality’

Looks as though this year’s Soulforce Equality Ride is going to face a little opposition. As I wrote back on August 9 and as I reported for Q-Notes on September 9, the 2008 Equality Ride will make a stop at the Columbia, S.C.-based Columbia International University on Oct. 6.

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In 2007, I felt humbled and privileged to be a part of a journey that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. “Unique” and “life-changing” barely describe the experiences and memories made during those two Spring months on the Ride — although depending on where we were, those months could have certainly been described as Winter or Summer.

Riders on the 2007 Equality Ride Eastern Route gather April 4, 2007, at a public park for prayer and organizing before their stop at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. Radical anti-gay protesters with the Concord, N.C.-based Operation Save America joined them, after first lying about who’d sent them and implying they were allies (video here). Photo Credit: Adam Bink/Soulforce Q Equality Ride.

The Eastern route of the 2007 Equality Ride took a bus full of young adults from across the nation through the Deep South, home of the Baptists — you know, my kind of folk. Our two stops in my native Carolinas were the Baptist Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., and the Presbyterian Montreat College right outside of Asheville, N.C. Other Southern stops included Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo.; Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla.; Baylor University in Waco, Texas; Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.; the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.; Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.; Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga.; and Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va.

The 2008 Equality Ride hasn’t yet released its list of expected college and university stops, but this year’s Ride will prove to be an amazing journey of epic proportions. Departing from Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1, the Ride will focus entirely on the South and stop at what will likely be among the most conservative Christian colleges and universities in the nation. The trip will end after six weeks, on Nov. 20.

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