LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Twelve members of Soulforce, a group of homosexual activists, were arrested during a two-hour sit-in outside the office of R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 26.
The surprise protest was in response to comments Mohler made in a March 2 weblog entry about the possibility of prenatal testing and treatment for homosexuality.
Soulforce is in the midst of a second nationwide Equality Ride, in which about 50 of its members split up on two buses to travel on an east route and a west route visiting more than 30 Christian colleges and universities in a two-month period.
According to a bus tour schedule posted on the group’s website, the east route was to stop March 26 in Jackson, Tenn., at Union University. But organizers revised the itinerary to go to Southern Seminary in light of what they called Mohler’s “inflammatory comments.” The group, in a news release just prior to their arrival at the Louisville, Ky., campus, said they would “demand a public apology for statements Mohler made earlier this year that encouraged the intentional prevention of homosexuality.”
Lawrence Smith, vice president for communications at Southern Seminary, told Baptist Press that Soulforce arrived on campus about 10 a.m. Monday and tried to enter the president’s office. The door was locked, so the 22 protesters sat down in the hallway.
“We called our security, which in turn called Louisville Metro Police,” Smith said. “They arrived probably 45 minutes after the whole thing started.”
Soulforce asked to see Mohler and to read a statement to him, but Mohler was not on campus at the time, Smith said. On behalf of the administration, Smith agreed to listen to the group’s statement.
“We are gathered here as straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to demand that Albert Mohler openly recognize our right to life, love and liberty,” the statement said in part, according to Soulforce’s website. “As it stands, his voice is terribly misguided in believing that God does not affirm the identities of gay and transgender people.
“So, we call on him to take responsibility for his bigotry and the hurtful effects of his statements, and ask that he issue a public apology for having said them. We have a moral obligation to speak out in the name of truth and justice,” the statement said.
After hearing the group’s complaint, Smith asked the protestors to leave the campus because they were disrupting regular seminary business. Ten of them complied and retreated to a public sidewalk in front of the seminary, but 12 refused to leave until police charged them with criminal trespass.
The Soulforce members who gathered on the sidewalk held a news conference, and Smith said several Southern Seminary students offered them bottles of water.
“People have to understand that Soulforce is a professional protest group and their aim is to disrupt and in many cases to be arrested, so that was their purpose in coming here and we were not going to let them disrupt our campus,” Smith told BP.
“We will commit as a seminary and as individuals to pray for members of Soulforce and for anyone who feels trapped in sexual sin,” he said. “We’ll pray for their salvation and their freedom in Christ.”
Mohler, in his March 2 weblog, stated in part that “if a biological basis (for homosexuality) is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed,” Christians should support its use.
The column caused so much controversy that Mohler posted a follow-up column March 16, answering some of the objections.
“There is no conclusive research that indicates any biological basis for sexual orientation,” Mohler wrote. “But — and this is a big ‘if’ here — if science were ever to discover a correlation or causation with biological factors, Christians should not be surprised. We believe in the catastrophic and comprehensive effects of the Fall and God’s judgment upon sin.”
In addition to Union University, other Baptist-affiliated schools on Soulforce’s bus tour schedule this year include Baylor University, Cedarville University, Mississippi College, Oklahoma Baptist University, Samford University and the University of the Cumberlands.