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Saturday, March 11, 2006

 

Equality Ride: Starting a dialogue? Part Two

Here is a press release from SoulForce about Regent University. In contrast to this release, I had a conversation with Mark Yarhouse at Regent today about several matters and in the process he let me know that he was disappointed about how Equality Ride has misreprented Regent. He was looking forward to having some of the riders in on of his classes and a number of other activities were planned on campus. According to Mark, Regent backed out because the leadership could not trust the Riders to be truthful. If the Eriders said Regent was refusing dialogue (which they did on their website) at the very same time Regent was planning it, then the leadership of Regent did not feel they could trust the Riders to be honest about what went on while on campus. My impression (not Mark's) is that Soulforce was especially anxious to give Falwell and Robertson a black eye. Every one knows there is a history between Mel White and Falwell and Robertson.

Regent University Uninvites Equality Riders, Banning the Gay Activists from Campus
Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.
Pat Robertson's Regent University has rescinded their previous welcome to the Equality Riders, stating they now refuse dialogue and that the riders presence will constitute trespassing.

Virginia Beach, VA (PRWEB) March 11, 2006 -- Despite previously having agreed to a day of dialogue with the Soulforce Equality Riders, Pat Robertson’s Regent University has now rescinded their invitation, refusing discussion and stating that their presence on campus will constitute trespassing. Regent University is the second stop for this group of young adults on a two-month journey to Christian colleges and military academies that ban GLBT enrollment.

This comes after 24 people, some Equality Riders and other supporters from nearby colleges were arrested at Liberty University. “We had remained optimistic, despite nearly six weeks of unreturned phone calls and emails, that forums for genuine dialogue would emerge,” says Equality Rider Chad Grandy, the point person for Regent University.

=Not so, according to Mark. Forums were in planned and in place.

On February 21, the webpage on the Equality Ride site was updated to reflect the nature of that continuing dialogue, stating: Regent University has refused dialogue thus far with the Equality Ride, but the riders are undeterred in their hope for dialogue with the school. On February 22, the riders received a positive response from the University with a proposed schedule for the two days on campus.

On February 25, a subsequent press release from the Equality Ride quoted Vice President of Academic Affairs Randall Pannell when he said “We at Regent University are looking forward to the Equality Ride’s visit, and are trying to prepare so that this will be a positive experience for both Equality Ride, as well as Regent University.” In that same press release, Equality Ride Co-Director Jacob Reitan commended the school’s choice to embrace academic freedom and discussion. As of March 7 Regent is now closed to dialogue and access, citing two issues, one the continued presence on the Equality website of the phrase, “…Regent University has refused dialogue…but the riders are undeterred.” The second issue is the riders’ statement that Regent indeed has a policy banning GLBT students. “This was true before the February 22 communication from Pannell, and it remains true. The school did tacitly refuse any dialogue.”

This is hair splitting on the part of Equality Ride. Regent wanted to be treated as well as the effort had treated Biola and ACU by reflecting the nature of Regent's involvement. Mark had worked hard to make access and dialogue possible. And anyone who knows Mark would believe this to be true.

Regent did not request that this statement change prior to fully recanting on the schedule. Pannell writes in the withdrawal letter, “In spite of the fact that the Soulforce Equality Ride is aware that we have no such policies, the facts continue to be misstated.” The activists recently discovered that the University does have a stated policy that appears to ban homosexual enrollment. The handbook reads “…homosexual conduct or any other conduct, which violates Biblical standards, is prohibited.” While the school maintains the policy refers to behavior, the Equality Riders are concerned it may be a form of discrimination. The Equality Ride is an action of Soulforce, an activist organization committed to ending the stigmatization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people--stigmatization caused by religion based bias. ###

Now I don't know everything and am always open to new information but what I am hearing from Mark leads me to think Regent was wise not to cooperate. You can't act in bad faith (Equality Ride) and then expect to get cooperation.

Comments:
Perhaps Mark Yarhouse should detail what "Forums were in planned and in place" and what was communicated to E-Ride before Regent withdrew.

Mark has said to you that he wished for dialogue to occur, but what exactly did that mean? Was Regent Admin. involved? E-Ride has complained about lack of meaningful dialogue on the issues for GLBT students at Regent, and it would be reasonable for Mark to detail what had been done in that direction.

What constitutes "homosexual conduct" at Regent is far wider than actual sexual activity. Gay students may not speak freely about themself, and do face a blatantly negative environment; including harrassment by fellow students (although, of course, Regent doesn't count that as harrassment...).

If there was no room for those concerns to be addressed with Regent as an organisation, then I'd have to say that meaningful dialogue was not offered to E-Ride. Getting an invite to sit in on one of Yarhouse's lectures doesn't constitute such dialogue.

And speaking of "still on their website"... I see you may still download all of a truly diabolical Regent Law Review "about" homosexuality, and homosexuals.

Yarhouse's glowing references to the pieces by Baldwin, Reisman, Reckers and Rondeau... well, I'll leave it to everyone to make up their own minds about that.
 
I've posted a few thoughts on this subject at GS&C. Link

I have nothing to say about the dialogue between Equality Rides and Regent, since I don't have the time to pick through your post and the Soulforce website.

My guess is I will get some heat for what I posted on GS&C, but I truly think that the emphasis on conservative Christian schools is the wrong focus. The military discrimination is what gets me riled up, because it is so nonsensical and outdated. Fluent Arabic speakers, even, get kicked out--c'mon!!

Anyway, Falwell et. al. are not going to change their policies, and I could care less. I'd like to see those schools make themselves irrelevant, which they will end up doing if they cannot produce high-caliber students. (Despite Liberty's claims about their debate team...)

GCC is an exception in its educational approach, though I do think that certain connections (ie. free market capitalism & Christianity) which are tenuous get taught as gospel...

I know of one GCC grad working with my partner at Barnes in the neurology dept, and despite the fact that his beliefs probably mean that Liz & I are going to hell, from what I hear, he is a good doctor, and he treats Liz with respect.

At the end of the day, that's what I'd like to see....said GCC grad can worship and believe as he pleases, as long as he allows me the same.
 
CK - I agree with most everything you wrote. We worship God and the market :)

The focus on Christian colleges is fine but I think the method is faulty. Soulforce was having more dialogue before the ride than so far during it. In fact, most of these colleges would welcome it now if done in a way that is mutually respectful. At Regent, it had been going on. I suspect this Ride will set things back there.

Here we are able to approach subjects that can't talked about at Berkeley. Case in point, we had a stem cell research symposium with both pros and cons represented by some front line folks. The one conservative speaker, a physician from Mayo Clinic, was uninvited to speak to Berkeley just before he was to do so because his views were too divergent from the status quo there. Imagine that, GCC has more academic freedom than Berkeley.

I know in my classes we have discussions and pro and con debates about sexual orientation that my email tells me cannot happen in some state supported universities.
 
Uh-oh, if you agree with most everything I wrote, I'm in trouble. Pretty soon blogs like Writing Right and PSIMO are going to be cut-&-pasting my words and declaring that the gays contradict themselves and agree with Throckmorton!

Seriously, I think there are *some* fair connections to be made between the fight for LGBT equality and the fight for African-American equality. Just not in this particular situation. The military fight is, as I remarked, a far more appropriate analogy.

As far as worship of God and the market, did you see the NY Times book review about the 'crunchy cons' who shop at Whole Foods, vote Republican, are environmentalists, and ardent evangelicals? Forget who wrote the book, but you could find it online easily.

Kind of a mix between Berkeley and GCC...
 
CK - I probably should have similar worries :)
 
I just want to say that I really appreciate your post. As a Regent student, I think it is important that people know that Regent University and its students and professors really were looking forward to this time of dialogue. In disagreement with grantdale, I can state that I am certain homosexual students would not be harrassed or spoken of harshly by other students on this campus. They would be loved and treated as any other individual here. Homosexual conduct (meaning homosexual activity or perhaps promoting homosexuality on campus) would not be condoned, because that type of conduct is unBiblical. Regent is a university based on Biblical principles, so I think that those sorts of regulations can only be expected. Regent does not ban students who struggle with homosexuality any more than it bans students who struggle with other things that the Bible names as sins however. We (the students and faculty at Regent) welcome all into our midst as we all strive to be the people that God has called us to be. Though I would guess that the majority of students agree with the standard conservative Christian viewpoints, I can also attest that such issues as homosexuality, abortion, and other hot topics are freely discussed in our classrooms with individuals speaking up for both sides of the issues. I deeply appreciate the open environment on this campus as well as the love and respect that the students have for one another, even those with whom they disagree. Thank you again for showing Regent's side of this story and for painting an accurate picture of our school. God bless. :-)
 
Melissa,

You talk about gay and lesbian students at Regent in theoretical terms. That alone tells me a great deal. You are speculating.

Perhaps if you had actually asked them – perhaps if you could find them – your opinion about what it is like for them at Regent would carry more weight. You are “certain homosexual students would not be harrassed or spoken of harshly” but you don’t actually know, do you?

And while you may have had a great deal of animated “debate” at Regent about homosexuality – that I don’t doubt -- how often has this involved a fellow student who openly tells others that they are gay?

("Discussions" about hurricanes hitting Florida to punish society for allowing gay men and women to live their own lives do not count.)

Banning Equality Riders from campus is Regent’s prerogative. But did you take the opportunity to leave the campus and talk to them?

(Yes, that is a trick question. Feel free to tell everyone why...)
 
greantdale,

I want emplore you to read and see the news releases on ER's web site, the Pilot on-line at hamptonroads.com, and WAVY 10 at WAVY.com. I hope you see the reality of what took place amidst all the hoopla. But what you won't read in the news is that 15-20 Regent students went out to dinner with half the ER riders last night. You also won't read that Mark Yarhouse joined them as well. You won't read or see in the news much about the relationships that have formed and the bridges that have been built. Reconciliation is happening.

I am one of the students that has spent most of my time in the last 3 days interacting with the ER riders. I also have a homosexual orientation and a strong Orthodox Christian faith. In your blog you accused Melissa of speculating about many things, you also made quite a few speculations yourself. As far as my experience goes in the School of Psychology and Counseling, Melissa is not remiss in her "speculations". I cannot speak for other departments on campus, but I can for ours.

Dr. Throckmorton, thank you for your commitment to open, intelligent dialogue, and academic freedom.
 
Thanks triscar for sharing those observations.
 
Thank you Tricsar. :-) I am a student in the School of Law at Regent, so I can speak for that department as well.
 
Thanks triscar -- actually we have been following, starting with photos on the street when ER arrived -- and I don't mean the arrests!. I'm sure Warren would prob. agree that if it's "out there" on the web...we would find it. (My q. was about what Melissa had done, not about what I hoped would occur with other individuals.)

You also partly answered something I asked Warren in the first post -- to ask Mark to detail what had been specifically organised from Regent itself. Still don't know, regardless of what individuals did off campus.

You may well feel comfortable with the environment there (I'd wish everyone is) but many are not and cannot be open about the problems they face and the distress that they feel. I don't have to speculate about that, given the conversations we've had over the years -- conversations that you (and Melissa particularly) may not have had. I don't think ER came looking to highlight people like you, but I hope they left with you understanding other's discomfort in the same environment.

But you do seem to be saying that ER has (partly?) actually achieved what it set out to do. That much they should be pleased with.

It also leaves you with the responsibility to pass their message through to Regent admin... on behave of those who feel they cannot be open.

PS Melissa, given you've just id yourself: perhaps you may have a comment about the RLR edition I link to in that first post -- ie. what is the chance such an edition would be repeated today?

(I'm not sure what those hideous claims about paedophilia etc have to do with a Law Review, but stranger things have happened. Those "extras" were the basic reason Stamford rejected the whole lot, but Regent chose to publish them anyway.)
 
I am not yet on law review, so I know little about the process that articles go through before being published. I am also still in my first year at Regent, so my perspective is limited to what I know from my classmates, professors, and school programs (I don't yet know anyone on law review). I don't know what the likelihood of such articles being published today is, but I can assure you of what I do know. My perspective on homosexuality is that it is wrong and a sin, but at the same time, I have several homosexual friends from undergrad whom I care deeply about. Because of this, I would never treat a homosexual any differently than I would anyone else. I have discussed this issue with many of my Regent friends, both from the law school and other schools, and with professors, and I know from talking with them, that their perspective is the same as mine. I have not met anyone at Regent yet who disagrees with me on that, and I have met many who have homosexual friends. Though I do not have the experience of being a homosexual or having homosexual friends on campus yet, I do have the experience of knowing most of the 1L class, the ways that they treat their homosexual friends, and the ways that they conduct their lives in relation to others generally. This is the perspective from which I wrote my first comment, and I never meant to imply that I had any other experience or knowledge regarding this issue than that of a Regent student.

In relation to the law review articles, I have not read all of them yet and have only skimmed over some of them, particularly the paedophilia article that you mentioned. From what I can see, it is fairly well documented (not merely claims) and the statistics mentioned and articles cited are rather shocking. I certainly would not judge any homosexual based on the information in that article (I don't think that any of my friends would interpret the article in such a way either), but I do think that when such statistics do exist it is important to at least consider them. By that, I mean that it is important for anyone to consider, homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, as we strive together to solve such societal problems as paedophilia. Children are incredibly important, and given that a primary purpose of the law is to protect individuals, including children, such information has as much relevance to a law review as any other publication. The more one knows about such issues as paedophilia, the better one can make laws and establish policies addressing those problems (In saying this, I am not proposing any discriminatory laws. I just think that such information is relevant to the legislative process for creating nondiscriminatory laws to better address this segment of paedophilia.) Since I have not fully read the article, I am not sure if I would agree with everything in it, but I do think that it is an important topic to write about if that much information exists on the subject.

So there you have my views. I would greatly appreciate your perspective on this topic and on the statistics and articles mentioned in that article since I have little knowledge about the homosexual movement myself and had no idea that any homosexual publications (even extreme ones) supported paedophilia before skimming through that article. Thanks. :-)
 
Hello again grantdale. I just realized that I forgot to mention something in my last comment. You mentioned conversations that you have had that have shown you that some are uncomfortable either at Regent or at other Christian universities (I wasn't really clear on that in your comment). I am sad to hear that, and I wanted to ask you if you could perhaps embellish on that some or ask if you (or any others) had any suggestions about how to make those students feel more comfortable without compromising the strictly Biblical standards of our school. Thank you again. :-)
 
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