Equality Ride at Baylor

Some observations following the Equality Riders as they make their way through Texas and Mississippi:

A great idea from the town of Waco, home of Baylor University (and apparently also many large billboards erected by the “ex-gay” industry): A “Board of Trustees,” a wall where straight allies can post pictures of themselves so that the deeply closeted GLBT people of Waco will know who they can trust. My admiration for their resourcefulness is overwhelmed by the profound sadness that this is neccessary.

Although student groups and faculty members had invited the Equality Ride to visit the campus, and they had been initially told that they would be welcome if a campus group invited them, the university denied requests for an official dialogue. It also seems that they had one of their own students arrested for trespassing.

As is probably the case at all of the schools on the tour, there has been an “underground” gay-straight alliance at Baylor. As is also the case at the typical college, student organizations at Baylor regularly chalk the sidewalks with their meeting times and dates. In the past, when the gay-straight alliance group chalked the sidewalk, the administration would immediately remove their messages. So much for dialogue, and so much for the claim that Baylor is “comfortable with conversations regarding human sexuality.”

Equality Rider Matt Comer tells us that “in an act of solidarity with LGBT students and the now defunct underground gay-straight student group, the five Riders and one student chalked the sidewalk in front of Waco Hall with messages of God’s love and acceptance.” For this, the six were arrested and held overnight in jail. They were released yesterday on $11,000 in bonds.

Read the Soulforce press release.

A third-year law student wrote this scathing editorial in the Baylor Lariat following the Equality Ride visit. An excerpt:

In the short time I spent with Soulforce riders, I discovered a group of intelligent, articulate and kind-hearted young people willing to talk honestly and openly. The words in the e-mail [sent to students by Dr. Dub Oliver, vice president for student life] claimed Baylor wants to promote dialogue, but the actions that followed demonstrated the opposite. The group was not allowed to pass out literature (even when students requested it), and was removed from campus by police when they did so. Baylor might purport to promote dialogue about sexuality, but it clearly only promotes dialogue with which it agrees.

As a Christian it’s very disappointing to see others of my faith so afraid of discussion. In a discussion with another law student who was equally disheartened by the e-mail, I was reminded that Baylor is not only part of the Baptist community but an institution of higher learning as well.

What makes Baylor exceptional is not only what goes on inside it’s walls but also what it presents to the outside world.

That face should be one that will encourage other great minds and hearts to come here and learn in the future. As members of the Baylor family, what message do we want to send to the world? Do we want to send the message that we are so insecure in our faith and afraid of individuals we perceive as different that we won’t welcome them onto our campus for a discussion?

The message is that they are afraid. Afraid of young people armed with nothing but chalk, Bibles, and the truth about who they are. How embarrassing for those who claim to be so strong in their faith, and who ridicule love, inclusion and compassion as the values of “sissy Christians.”

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