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Soulforce activists arrested for trespassing at Liberty University

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)–On the first stop of their bus tour of 18 Christian colleges and military academies, 24 members of the homosexual activist group Soulforce were arrested for trespassing on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Before their arrival, Liberty’s chancellor Jerry Falwell had warned the activists they would not be allowed on campus to use the school as an instrument for their own fundraising and media attention.

“Neither will we permit them to espouse opinions or otherwise suggest beliefs or lifestyles that are in opposition to the morals and values that this institution promotes,” Falwell had said in a statement.

But Soulforce members arrived at Liberty anyway for a late morning rally March 10 on the sidewalk just outside the school’s entrance.

About 60 people, including the 35 members of the bus tour and some of their supporters, listened to a music group play guitars and sing 1960s peace songs, the Associated Press reported.

A documentary film crew and MTV News were among the media representatives there to capture the moment, according to The Lynchburg News & Advance. The activists took turns stepping toward the university gate while reading prepared statements until Liberty University police arrested them for trespassing, the newspaper said.

Soulforce members stood in single file as they were restrained in plastic handcuffs and taken to a local magistrate. Two members faced additional charges of inciting trespassing, AP said, but all were released without bail later in the day.

A court appearance is scheduled for April 3, and the maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charge of trespassing is a year in jail or a $2,500 fine.

Falwell said Liberty is considered a “home away from home” for many students. “Most of the parents of our students would not invite gay activists into their homes,” he said.

The News & Advocate reported that about a dozen of Liberty’s 9,600 students made an effort to speak with the Soulforce demonstrators during their rally. Trey Faulkner, a senior, told the group that homosexuality is a sin but God offers healing.

“God does not hate people who are homosexuals, but He does want to heal their broken hearts,” he said.

Dubbed the “Equality Ride,” Soulforce’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.

Among the scheduled stops on the tour are Baptist-affiliated Union University in Jackson, Tenn., Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla., and California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif.

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