Back to Birmingham

Fifty years ago civil rights activists fought for equality. Today the journey continues.

In homage to the Freedom Riders of the 1960s civil rights movement, the members of the Soulforce Equality Ride are nonviolently protesting discriminatory college campuses around the country today.

The 51-day bus tour that is already well under way is part of a national tour to stop at 19 military academies and religious campuses that have banned gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students from their campuses.

The 33 young activists who spearheaded the campaign have been met with differing receptions at each of their campus visits, ranging from respectful at Bethel University to shunning at North Central University to arrests at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. The goal of the tour is to start a dialogue with the military and religious schools that believe homosexuality is wrong. Ultimately these schools need to recognize that at least some of their students are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and that punishing them for that is wrong.

Soulforce stopped in our own great state of Minnesota in the hopes of having a religious dialogue with the members of North Central University. Needless to say, the Pentecostal leaders of tomorrow did not think love thy neighbor extended to homosexuals.

Unfortunately, judging from the actions of campuses like North Central’s – which coincidentally censored its own newspaper’s coverage of Soulforce Equality’s visit – have a long way to go. Thankfully members of Soulforce have not become discouraged and continue to spread their message of equality across the country.

Kudos to the members of Soulforce for putting action behind their idealism. Fifty years ago young activists rode into the hearts of the places that did not welcome them and changed the course of the nation. By showing they are willing to confront the centers of sexual bigotry around the United States, they give us little excuse in not taking sides.