This past fall many of you supported the third annual Soulforce Q Equality Ride as it visited fifteen schools throughout the South. And much like previous years, some places were receptive and hospitable while others shut their doors. Sadly, Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas falls into the latter category.
In addition to policing gender expression, Southwestern explicitly states that "homosexuality and lesbianism may incur a fine from $50 up to $250 and could result in an appearance before the Student Conduct Committee and possible termination from the university." (These regulations can be found under the Residential Life section of their website.) The school is also home to Cutting Edge, a student organization that declares itself "a ministry to the homosexuals." Even still, leaders at Southwestern decided that there was no room for us or for dialogue about their beliefs and practices. In fact, they chose to preclude our voices altogether. We were directed to an empty parking lot where a small group of representatives greeted us briefly and explained that they were the extent of our welcome.
Three Equality Riders, however, decided to push the boundaries set by administrators. Zak Rittenhouse, Manny Lampón, and Nicholas Rocco DeFinis began to walk towards the student center in hopes of attending morning chapel and engaging their peers. Consequently, they were arrested and had to spend twelve hours in jail. A court date was then set for April 8, 2009.
This Wednesday, Zak, Manny and Nicholas are due before a Waxahachie judge in connection to the stand they took that day. As they prepare for trial, we ask that you keep them in your thoughts. Messages of solidarity can be sent to Q@soulforce.org. You can also visit their Rider pages to make a donation to help cover legal costs. More information about our visit to SAGU can be found on our blog dated October 29. And to read about the 2008 Equality Ride in greater detail and browse photo albums, please visit the official website, EqualityRide.com.
Equality Ride Co-Director