Soulforce hits the road to fight intolerance 

Back on the Bus

Local activist Katie Higgins is back on the road with nearly two dozen other young gay people, calling on repressive religious schools to end their anti-gay policies and offering support to closeted gay students forced to hide or risk discipline or expulsion.

Soulforce was founded by Mel White, a former ghost writer for notorious anti-gay minister Jerry Falwell. Often left standing outside of the gates at these private schools, Soulforce members use non-violent protest — often standing in silence or reading scripture — to get their point across. Members also defy no-trespassing orders, walking innocently onto campus and into the arms of local law enforcement.

The first stop this year was Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., which was founded by Falwell, who ran the school until his death last year. The university allowed Soulforce onto campus, and Higgins says there were many students eager to speak with them.

"More so than any year before, we have heard from many Liberty University students who are LGBT and desperately need us to be a voice of reason on their campus," she says.

Last week, the bus pulled into the South Carolina capital to visit Columbia International University. Students contacted Soulforce and told them of the school's intent to prevent students from speaking to them, and the group was not allowed on campus.

"That is probably the hardest thing for me to understand," Higgins says. "What about our message is so threatening? Is it the delivery? We are a small group of young adults who have dedicated their lives to learning the philosophy and methods of nonviolence, and we stand at a school's gate with our Bibles and open hearts."

Last April, Higgins was arrested for trespassing at Bob Jones University in Greenville during the last Soulforce bus trip. This year, Higgins' mother joined the protest in Columbia.

"I'm finally ready to make my home an active part of my journey for justice," Higgins says. —Greg Hambrick

For more on Higgins' trip and Soulforce, visit www.Soulforce.org/EqualityRide.

The Gay Issue 2008

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