(Photo: Makenzie Marineau)
A gay rights group demonstrated at Oklahoma Baptist University on Wednesday as part of an ongoing project to advance acceptance of homosexuality in religious organizations.
Members of Soulforce demonstrated across the street from the OKBU campus in Shawnee, holding a silent vigil and dialoguing with students.
Marty O'Gwynn, assistant to the president of Oklahoma Baptist University, told The Christian Post that the Soulforce participants were not given permission to demonstrate on campus. But he also noted that the protesters were peaceful.
O'Gwynn said that OKBU does not have any homosexual student organizations, like a Gay Straight Alliance or Pride Alliance, because "the university's student handbook states that 'the philosophy and purposes of student organizations must be compatible with the university's statement of purpose and philosophy.'"
According to OKBU's policy, "students, faculty, and staff will comply with the biblical standard for sexuality." This includes proscriptions against "heterosexual sex outside of marriage, homosexual behavior, the perversion of sexuality through pornography, rape, incest, sexual addictions and all other forms of sexuality that deviate from the biblical standard for sexuality."
Jason Conner, director of programs for Soulforce and 2012 Equality Ride co-director, told CP that the reason for demonstrating at OKBU was because Soulforce believes the school's policies are discriminatory against sexual minorities.
"Oklahoma Baptist University is one of about 200 schools in this country that openly discriminates against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) individuals," Conner argued. "We choose to visit these campuses because we believe that these policies directly contribute to the harm and isolation so often felt by those in the LGBTQ community."
This was part of Soulforce's "Equality Ride" bus tour, which takes demonstrators to several campuses and churches to hold vigils to urge religious institutions to be more accepting of homosexual and transgender sexual identities.
Soulforce has also held demonstrations at Liberty University, Wheaton College, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 2004, Soulforce disrupted the proceedings of the United Methodist Church quadrennial General Conference by marching around the convention center demanding that open homosexuals be allowed to be ordained clergy in the UMC.
Oklahoma Baptist University's O'Gwynn said, "OBU respects the rights of others … [and] asks that they (Soulforce and LGBT activists) respect the university's rights to hold and enforce policies which are tied to its founding principles."