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.