A traveling activist group wants Southern Nazarene University to reassess its LGBT policies.
BY GREG HORTON
A touring group of LGBT activists, Equality Ride, is scheduled to visit Southern Nazarene University on Monday, part of what the group describes as a nationwide effort to visit schools that “openly discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals,” through university policies.
Soulforce, an activist group started by Mel White, former ghost writer for Jerry Falwell, started Equality Ride in 2006. The riders are people of faith, many from backgrounds that also teach that homosexuality is a sin. Jason Conner, an Equality Ride codirector who grew up Mormon, said Bethany’s SNU was chosen because of its “biblical stance” on sexuality.
“The policy lists ‘homosexual behavior’ alongside perversion, adultery and premarital sex,” Conner said.
“It’s a form of bullying. If you want to have a celibacy policy or premarital sex policy, don’t single out homosexuality.”
SNU President Loren Gresham addressed the issue of the Equality Riders in a Feb. 28 letter to the south-central region of the Nazarene Church. “We did not invite these visitors to our campus,” Gresham wrote.
“However, based on Equality Ride’s past actions and their statements to us recently, we know that they are coming to visit the SNU community whether we grant permission or not.”
Conner said the riders have three goals at every campus they visit. “We want to talk about why the policies exist and seek to have them changed,” he said. “We encourage schools to add gender identity/expression and sexual orientation to anti-discrimination and bullying policies. Finally, we ask them to create a safe space, like a gaylesbian alliance, where students and faculty can feel secure to discuss the issues and seek support.”
We feel compelled to go to schools where students are suffering in silence.
He said riders have been arrested on many occasions, including once at Oral Roberts University in 2006 and once the following year at Oklahoma Baptist University.
“In the selection process, we automatically put schools who agree to meet us on the route,” Conner said. “However, we also assess other campuses for the type of atmosphere they have, and we feel compelled to go to schools where students are suffering in silence.”
SNU has agreed to meet with the riders. Gresham said the school will “demonstrate Christlike hospitality and civility to the visitors, even while articulating our biblical position on homosexuality.”
Conner said the group wants to discuss the issues of biblical sexuality with leadership on every campus.