Photos: 5 Soulforce Equality Riders busted for "Bible study" at Colorado Christian University

Update: Yesterday, we visited with members of the Soulforce Equality Ride, who were promoting LGBTQ acceptance at Colorado Christian University as part of a nationwide tour; see our original coverage below. Shortly thereafter, the Lakewood Police Department arrested five participants in the event -- four Equality Riders and one Denver community member -- for allegedly trespassing on CCU's private campus.

The Soulforce Facebook page shares photos of the arrests and states that members were taken into custody after attempting to engage in a "Bible study." Here's an image capturing the arrest of co-director J Mason:

And here's the arrest of Equality Rider Cole Parke: Lakewood Police spokesman Steve Davis told the Associated Press that Equality Riders informed the LPD in advance that they intended to face arrest by trespassing onto the campus uninvited. They were taken into custody without incident, cited for trespassing and then released to participate in a student event at the Village Roasters coffee shop.

Look below for our earlier coverage:

Original post, 2:55 p.m. April 17: Soulforce's "Equality Ride," a national bus tour of seventeen young advocates who're crossing the country to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people at various religious organizations, stopped at Colorado Christian University in southwest Denver today after visits to Focus on the Family and Young Life in Colorado Springs yesterday.

"We are making this direct action today because we've been contacted by students at Colorado Christian University who have informed us of the need for this kind of conversation surrounding LGBTQ rights on their campus," said Ryan Barnette, a rider from Ohio.

The riders, who are parked at the entrance to the school, are handing out paper plates to passing cars to represent the fast they're on for these "spiritually starved" students whose identities are not being recognized or affirmed at CCU, Soulforce argues. (They are not being identified by Soulforce, either.)

While Colorado Christian University has denied the riders access into the school, officials aren't ignoring the advocates. Though cops are positioned at the entrance to CCU, many of the university's administrators and faculty members, as well as curious students, have come to the entrance to talk with the Soulforce Riders.

Bree Adams, a CCU student who's been handing out paper plates, commented that "as a university that stands itself on community, to completely shut out an organization like this that only wants conversation is ridiculous."

Of course, plenty of conversations took place. Leaders of the Soulforce Riders and the heads of various CCU departments -- including Jim McCormick, vice president of student life; Joe Walters, campus pastor; Derry Ebert, director of admissions' and Sharon Felker, dean of students -- engaged in a lengthy chat in front of the university entrance, discussing common concerns for the safety and well-being of the students. The talks were congenial and friendly, according to Walters.

In fact, Colorado Christian officials expressed the same concerns voiced by Soulforce for students who may be experiencing any sort of abuse, whether verbal or physical, from classmates or members of the faculty. Administrators urged the advocates to tell them if any students were harsh, disrespectful or abusive, and thanked the Soulforce Riders for their peaceful demonstration.

The reason the direct action was not allowed on the CCU campus was because of the school's emphasis on private property. In a letter to students, Bill Armstrong, president of the university, stated, "CCU often hosts lectures, discussions and debates which include opinions different from those of the University itself. It is, however, the decision of the University and its leaders to decide whether or not to let such organizations on campus."

"The key reason we're not letting them on campus is because April is the busiest time of the year and the university, as well as the students, have many things to attend to," said Jim McCormick, vice president of student life and CCU spokesman. "We have had several organizations simply call us and tell us that they are coming to campus and we have not allowed them to enter."

The university has a history of interaction with the Equality Ride. In 2006, Colorado Christian hosted the Soulforce team during a day of conversation. "We invited them onto campus with student hosts for workshops, forums and discussions.... It was a good day of dialogue," McCormick said.

But the day did not create any lasting change in either of the organizations, as evidenced by the return of the riders.

The Soulforce Riders will hold a meeting at Village Roaster, a neighboring coffeeshop, until 4:30 p.m. today for any students and faculty members who want to speak with the group. That will be followed by a potluck supper open to all from 6 to 8 p.m. at the House for All Sinners and Saints, as well as a spoken-word event tonight at the Mercury Cafe, where the Soulforce Riders will appear alongside Slam Nuba and Minor Disturbance.

The tour will leave Colorado on April 20, and head to Salt Lake City, Utah.

More from our Politics archive: "LGBT advocates fight Catholic Charities' threat to stop adoptions if civil unions are legalized."

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Haley Littleton
Contact: Haley Littleton