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Leaders urge caution as campuses brace for Soulforce

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In a push for broader acceptance of homosexuality, a group of about 35 young adults with the homosexual advocacy group Soulforce has announced a bus tour of 19 Christian colleges and military academies, including some Southern Baptist universities.

Dubbed the “Equality Ride,” the group’s goal for the tour is to “confront schools that ban the enrollment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students,” and they have requested that the schools offer official forums in which the activists can express their views.

“We must cut off the suffering at its source. The source is religion-based oppression, and it has taken place for centuries,” Jacob Reitan, a Soulforce spokesman, said.

The tour, which begins March 9, will include stops at Baptist-affiliated Union University in Jackson, Tenn., Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla., and California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif.

Soulforce’s visit to Union will fall on a Saturday, the first day of the school’s spring break, but President David Dockery issued a letter to the university community addressing the matter for those who will remain on campus.

“While we will seek to be kind and gracious in every way, it would be irresponsible for us to offer any public forum on such serious issues to a group of individuals that we do not know and who do not know us,” Dockery wrote. “This group has no investment in or accountability to the academic community or campus life of Union University.”

Dockery said Union believes that “human sexuality is God’s gift to human beings, which is rightly expressed only within the lifelong covenant commitment of marriage between one man and one woman.”

“We expect all those in the Union community — trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students — to live according to the biblical teaching regarding sexuality and cannot approve heterosexual or homosexual practices contrary to the biblical standards,” he said.

Homosexuality is not an issue Union would have chosen to highlight, Dockery said, but Soulforce has brought it to the forefront. He also said Union respects the right of others to choose a university consistent with their beliefs.

Mark Brister, president of Oklahoma Baptist University, addressed his campus community in a similar fashion, saying, “While we respect their right to hold their views, we also ask that they respect our right as a private institution to hold views based on our mission as an institution of Christian higher education.”

Brister made clear that Soulforce will not succeed in causing the university to change its policy on human sexuality, but he urged students and faculty to exhibit a Christ-like attitude toward the demonstrators.

“While we are committed to treating the riders with Christian courtesy and individual respect, we will not accept disruption of OBU business nor deem acceptable any OBU student or employee’s safety being threatened by this group,” Brister wrote. “Please pray for all individuals involved in this upcoming event, both the riders and the Christian schools they visit. This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate the uniqueness of OBU to a watching community, and perhaps our state and nation.”

Mike Haley, director of gender issues at Focus on the Family, suggested that campuses on the bus tour get ready in practical ways for the arrival of the Soulforce activists.

“School officials can prepare faculty and students for the visit in a number of ways,” he said. “To begin with, arm them with the facts. Discuss the myth of the gay gene. Discuss the fact that they will hear stories from an emotional perspective, and point out that those stories aren’t backed up with facts.”

Soulforce, Haley said, likely will seek to twist Scriptures to fit their agenda, but Christians must be ready with an accurate view of God’s Word.

“They’ll try to confuse the issue. Students need to examine what Scripture truly has to say about the issue of homosexuality,” Haley said.

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