Patrick Henry “on lockdown?”

This is just remarkable – a Patrick Henry College student left the following comment on our press release about the Soulforce Equality Ride:

Hi – I AM a PHC student, I found this article through google alerts about my school. How is SoulForce planning on coming to our school if the administration basically has the school on lockdown to prevent any outside visitors from entering that day? They REALLY don’t want you guys on our campus. How are you planning on contacting students? No one would even dare talk to you out of fear we’d be kicked out or scorned by our administration. Also, I guarantee you that no ‘sexually confused’ [sic] students will show up at the White Palace out of fear that the press would snap a picture of them.

Could it be that the administration of PHC is so unnerved by this group of idealistic young people telling their truth that they would actually threaten students with expulsion for talking to them? They REALLY don’t want these conversations to happen, yeah, we get it. This has apparently happened at a couple of the other schools on the route, and is why there is another venue being provided for the students who want to hear and speak for themselves. The press is being told that no photos will be allowed without permission.

We keep wondering why it is that the college does not trust the students enough to hear what the Equality Riders have to say. It would have been a simple act of both academic openness and Christian hospitality to invite them to campus in some manner, have a conversation, and maintain that the college’s “biblical worldview” of human sexuality is the correct one. That appears to be the approach they are taking in hosting a forum with the Rev. John Rankin and the Rev. Barry Lynn on the constitutional separation of church and state. The announcement of this event states, in part:

The goal is not polemics in a debate, but to win honest relationships in the face of cultural debates that otherwise divide people, all in service to the Gospel. A passion for the love of hard questions is always present in John’s forums, where the biblical nature of a level playing field is employed. John operates on the premise that all debated issues should be equally heard and is confident that in doing so the truth will rise to the top.

Instead, they are treating the Equality Riders – many of whom are fellow devout Christians – as if they are a dangerous invading army, sending a histrionic three page letter home to “warn” parents, and erecting a virtual Berlin Wall around the campus. Why do they seem so afraid of the truth rising to the top in this case?

In order to justify their disparate treatment of the Equality Riders, the college has incorrectly characterized the mission of the group as something other than seeking dialogue – in a press release posted yesterday, Chancellor Mike Farris claims that the intent of Soulforce and the Equality Ride is to “shut down,” “silence” and “neutralize” PHC’s freedom of speech “to uphold biblical convictions on sexual morality.”

He does not explain how engaging the world in debate, and truly listening to and considering the opinions of others (as stated in PHC’s own mission statement) would result in the college’s “silencing” – because of course it wouldn’t. In what sense do the Equality Riders or anyone else have the power to silence the speech of Patrick Henry College? Such a statement is transparently silly, and should embarrass the students who enrolled there expecting to receive a classical education. This sort of flamboyant overreaction to the marketplace of ideas is the reason that Farris was forced to step down as President of the college last year, and the reason for the ongoing difficulties retaining faculty (fully one half of the faculty resigned in 2005 in protest over the lack of academic freedom), and the formation of this dissident alumni group.

This is beginning to look less like a lockdown, and more like a meltdown.

This entry was posted in Commentary, News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Patrick Henry “on lockdown?”

  1. David says:

    I’m amazed, too. Mostly, the other colleges have at least made an effort to appear willing to engage, even as they make clear that their position is non-negotiable. I think they realize that to do otherwise would make them appear weak and paranoid, as PHC appears.

    The exception is Bob Jones University, where the administration said that “there is no room for dialogue.” Those kids will be prepared for the world, don’t you think? This is the school that was arguing just a few years ago that there is a clear Biblical injunction against interracial dating.

    The biggest joke has to be the idea that an offer to “debate” the Equality Riders about the Federal “Marriage Amendment” constituted some sort of welcome. That is a transparent admission that they can trust the students to repeat (probably with considerable skill) the talking points about marriage we are all familiar with, but can’t trust them to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with another human being that isn’t scripted and controlled. Yikes.

  2. David says:

    Christi, Doug and Andrew,

    I see that it’s time for a little truth-telling.

    Equality Loudoun has been here since 2003, and will continue to be here long after Soulforce continues their journey elsewhere, so the “YOU” in your comment is a bit misplaced. We tried in vain to get someone – anyone – to engage in a formal, public debate over the Virginia so-called “marriage amendment” last year. That would have been the appropriate time and place for such a debate, when there was actually something on the ballot to talk about.

    As for the Soulforce Equality Ride, their objective is dialogue about and between real people, making a human connection, not scoring points in a debate about an abstract issue. They are a faith group, not a debate team. We’ve explained this before, so I won’t go into it at greater length. There is now a great wealth of experience at other schools that demonstrates that the “casual conversation” at which you sneer has been very positive, moving, and mutually respectful.

    It’s too bad that you have fallen into the unkindness of dismissing the real and painful experiences of other human beings as “manipulative” or a “publicity stunt.” Would you want your own lives described that way? Please think about that.

    I recommend that you read the comment by Concerned Alumna on the preceding post. While it is carefully concealed in the PHC press release (which we already link to in this post, btw), the Graham Walker letter to parents makes it clear that there is dissension over whether the students should have been allowed to have structured dialogue, or any contact at all, with the Equality Riders. The letter even tries to enlist parents to try to control their “children” and talk them out of their “natural desire to engage” in conversation with these young people – people with very similar backgrounds and experiences. Again, what are they so afraid of allowing you to hear for yourselves?

  3. Jer says:

    Your article is probably the specific reason Patrick Henry went on “lockdown.” They knew if they gave an inch, you would take a mile. Because the college apparently did not want to allow you to set foot on it’s campus espousing the practices for which Sodom was burned, they, therefore, must be on the verge institutional collapse? This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard since someone told me that the Bible condoned homosexuality (read Romans). Jesus ate with publicans, prostitutes, and sinners, but he didn’t “accept” them, he told them to repent and believe. So, first things first, repent [read: get the beam out of your ass…I mean eye], then examine the speck in the eye of your brother. Now go cry home to mommy if your feelings are hurt.

  4. David says:


    The vulgar language in your comment is not acceptable here. Consider this a warning. I am leaving it up as an illustration of the underlying rage driving the actions of the administration of Patrick Henry College yesterday, and in stark contrast to the dignity, grace and courage of the Equality Riders who are willing to stand before such ugliness with open, loving hearts.

  5. Jack says:

    David, you are arguing backwards again — from the specific to the general. “That dog is a poodle,” does not imply that ALL dogs are poodles. We both have idiots and hate-mongers on our sides, but that does not mean we are all idiots and hate-mongers.

    You are not psychic, so do not presume to know the mental state (“underlying rage”) of those you oppose. That is the pervue of the Thought Police.

  6. Lauren says:

    If Soulforce was really seeking dialogue, they would have engaged my PHC friend and I in conversation when we were at the coffee shop where they were having lunch. But they didn’t say a word. It was obvious that we were PHC students–we had PHC badges on the table and were talking about various political matters and PHC events. But because there were no news cameras or journalists around, they simply ignored us. My friend and I were more than willing to talk, and unlike what has been suggested on this site, the PHC administration did not forbid students to talk with members of Soulforce. I, for one, am an extremely headstrong woman who simply would not attend a college that would restrict my freedom of speech.

    I regret that the Soulforce members didn’t talk to my friend or I. If they had, they would have found that I have an extremely close friend who practices homosexuality and that I love him dearly. That would have found out that we (my gay friend and I) are still friends. He knows that I believe his lifestyle is not only unbiblical but physically, emotionally, and spiritually destructive. I have done the research, both scriptural and secural–I know that there are extremely high drug and suicide rates among the homosexual community. I know that the average life expectancy of a man who practices homosexuality is 42 years old. I know that such a man is 180% more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases. I love my friend who practices homosexuality and I share the truth with him…and he has thanked me for it.

    I would really appreciate it if the homosexual community would stop assuming that all christians are homophobes. Give us the respect that you ask us to give you.

  7. David says:

    You’re right, Jack; no one can ever know the mental state or see into the heart of another person. We can only infer what is in another’s heart from their behavior. I infer from this person’s words, the behavior being his posting of those words here, that he is enraged. I actually infer from Mike Farris’ behavior that he is afraid, which is often displaced as rage.

    In his remarks, Mike Farris also infers the mental state and motivations of the Equality Riders (“The objective of this group in not dialogue, but to silence the voice of God in their own hearts,” etc.) but I don’t see where you have admonished him for this.

    Since the problem is making assumptions about and ascribing unwarranted motivations to one’s opponents on both sides, it seems to me that the solution is to sit down and have a conversation about it, so that each side can gain a better understanding of the other’s true beliefs and motivations – what is otherwise known as “dialogue.” That is what the Equality Riders came here to do, what they asked to come on campus to do, and what they and Equality Loudoun invited the Patrick Henry College community off campus to do. They didn’t exhibit behavior from which we can infer that they were interested in doing that. That’s a shame.

  8. David says:

    Lauren, some of the Equality Riders did speak with some PHC students off campus. If you were interested in dialogue, why did you not speak with them? I’m sure that my friend Jack will admonish you for saying, with no evidence at all, that they didn’t engage you in conversation because “there were no news cameras or journalists around,” as you are not psychic. Perhaps they were being respectful of you and thought it should be your choice to initiate conversation.

    The students who did talk with the Riders said that they were embarrassed by the way the college was handling this. That’s the only contact with students of which I am aware, other than the student reporter who attended the reception.

    I wish you had spoken with the Riders, because you have been badly misinformed. The things that you think you know are eye roll-inducing examples of junk science that have been thoroughly debunked, in particular that ludicrous life-span statement that has been repeated for decades. As for self-destructive behaviors like drug use and suicide, don’t you think that those things might possibly be related to the destructive and condemning messages that gay young people receive about themselves? This is exactly what Soulforce is trying to tell you. Spiritual violence harms people.

  9. Jack says:

    The response would be that the spiritual violence is self-inflicted.

  10. Jer says:

    You mistake sardonic disdain for “rage.” I guess being gay makes a person smarter too.