April 12, 2007 9:15 PM

Soulforce at Patrick Henry College

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Soulforce at Patrick Henry College
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Concerned Alumni of Patrick Henry
Statement Concerning Soulforce and Patrick Henry College

April 12, 2007
Contact: concernedalumniofpatrickhenry@gmail.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PURCELLVILLE, VA -- The Concerned Alumni of Patrick Henry (CAPH) are saddened that the Patrick Henry College administration chose to respond to Soulforce's campus visit with overwhelming force, rather than dialogue and engagement. While we understand, and are sympathetic to, the administration's duty to maintain an orderly campus and conduct the business of the school without interruption, we fear that the College's aggressive approach represents yet another instance of its drift toward insularity. To be sure, CAPH recognizes the provocative and confrontational nature of Soulforce's "Equality Ride." What we find troubling is that the administration chose to escalate the encounter, rather than defuse it. How much better, for both Patrick Henry and Soulforce, if the administration had greeted the protesters with hospitality and firmly, but calmly, expressed its position? The College could have acted graciously without acquiescing to Soulforce. Instead, the school evinces an enormous degree of insecurity and hostility that is not fitting an institution of higher education, much less one that seeks to "lead the nation and shape the culture."


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Posted by: CAPH | April 13, 2007 1:31 AM

are saddened that the Patrick Henry College administration chose to respond to Soulforce's campus visit with overwhelming force,

Actually, they didn't meet them with overwhelming force - they simply invoked their private property rights. When local officials were notified of Soulforce's plans and Patrick Henry's position, they determined the response. The police presence was entirely their call - and escalated because local GLBT groups had networked and encouraged busing in to join the protest. Since these groups are not pledged to nonviolence, how could, officals wanted to be prepared for anything. They couldn't have known that only 52 people - including the Soulforce contingetn - would show.

we fear that the College's aggressive approach represents yet another instance of its drift toward insularity

Aggressive? I find Patrick Henry's approach to the assault by Soulforce more like passive resistance. PHC offered to meet Soulforce for debate at a neutral venue so classes would not be disrupted but Soulforce refused. Why should Soulforce call the shots and why should an institution of higher learning drop everything to accomodate a crowd with a hisotry of disrupting campuses?

And btw, isn't CAPH a front for disgruntled former faculty members who have an axe to grind?

Posted by: barbara | April 13, 2007 6:26 AM

You know what's my favorite thing? People who make sweeping statements without knowing the facts.

Also, fake concern. Love that too.

Posted by: Amy K. | April 13, 2007 8:21 AM

Wow. That statement from CAPH is almost laughable, and yet extreamly sad at the same time. It really seems more and more that every single view point must be given equal weight, time, and possibility of being right except the Christian one. GLBT groups are claiming a knowledge of absolute truth just as much as any religious group.

And I think the point has been amply made, but worth saying again, this group has not shown interest in actually talking about the issue. I think many places and people would respond differently if they had.

Posted by: tiffany | April 13, 2007 1:50 PM

Barbara,

Thanks for your pictures and for taking an interest in Patrick Henry College.

As much as I agreed with the College's decision to refuse engagement and keep the protesters off the property, from the point of view of an alumni, the way the situation was handled in reality resulted in the college looking silly and insecure. As you yourself pointed out, the ratio of officers to protesters was at least 2 to 1, if not greater. Whether this was the fault of the College or the Police is not worth quibbling over.

The Concerned Alumni are just trying to make the point that, with a little more planning and perhaps a bit of generosity, the whole thing could have been handled better. I for one care deeply about my alma mater and it hurts me when a situation like this gets out of hand and ends up as a smear against PHC's reputation. The reason I am a member of CAPH, is because all too often the worst enemy of PHC's reputation is PHC itself. This is the situation CAPH desires to remedy.

CAPH is run by a loose group of several true alumni. It is not affiliated with any former faculty members, who are, for the record, not disgruntled but rather quite happy in their new jobs. These men and women are our friends, yes, but CAPH is run by alumni, for alumni. We maintain the website in our spare time between graduate school and busy jobs, because we care about the College, its future, and our own futures. I would ask you to please reconsider your dismissal of our group as a "front." We welcome and expect honest disagreement, but I think this can be done without recourse to gossip of this sort.

Again, thanks so much for taking an interest in the College and for taking pictures of the protest for those of us who were not there to see for ourselves.

- Concerned Alumna

Posted by: Concerned Alumna | April 13, 2007 3:34 PM

Hi Barbara,

It was so nice to finally meet you in person yesterday. Had I not been participating in a silent vigil intended only to be broken by occasional prayer and singing, I would have been happy to talk more then. I read some of your "Talking to the Left" book over at the coffee house, and actually found a lot of common ground.

I wonder if you could clarify something for me. Equality Loudoun hosted a reception in the evening and provided a venue for dialogue off campus, since PHC didn't want to invite the Equality Riders in. I don't know where you are getting the information about supposed calls for people from other groups to be "bused in" to join the Soulforce vigil. Soulforce has visited a lot of campuses, and these visits have never included any other groups, just the riders on the bus, plus a few token community members like me. This was never intended to be some huge demonstration - just what it was, a prayer vigil. Since Equality Loudoun has never indicated that we would play any role in the Soulforce visit other than hosting the aforementioned reception, and you specifically name us (in one of your photo captions), I'm more than a little curious about where you got that idea.

Also, as a counterpoint to your impression that "not much was going on," I found the vigil to be very powerful and moving. There was a lot going on for us, although it might not have been apparent to observers - especially observers who had been primed to expect...something else, I guess, but what?

Best,

David

Posted by: David Weintraub | April 13, 2007 6:27 PM

Dear David -

I received my information about the possibility of people being bused in from a Virginia State trooper I spoke with. I also had noticed calls on Montgomery County and Washington, DC-based blogs (PFLAG for instance) for support. These groups were under no compuction to observe the stated strategy of Soulforce. With the history of serious disruption and desecration of churches by gay groups in the past, perhaps some officials felt it was better to be safe than sorry. The state trooper also said that they were there to protect Soul Force in case counter demonstrators showed up and got out of line.

Since you've wandered into my world here, may I ask you a question? I know that not everyone is as open about their lives as I choose to be and so I will respect your not wanting to answer this. But I recently heard that you are a transgendered female-to-male. Is this true?

And if it is true, since you and Jonathan have been together for a long time, I am wondering if your sex change occured before or after meeting Jonathan?

You might imagine that just as you find the beliefs of fundamentalist Christians unsettling/confusing/bewildering/sad, we also have a hard time understanding this kind of identity confusion.

I welcome you to write your story and I will run it on my blog if you like for the enlightenment of my readers and myself.

Blessings,
Barbara

Posted by: barbara | April 14, 2007 9:13 AM

Barbara, if you are at all familiar with PFLAG, you must know that there was no chance of "disruption" or disrespect for Soulforce's commitment to the principles of Gandhian non-violence, principles that you saw for yourself put into action. If our Sheriff's department had any reason to believe that anyone was in danger, either from other allies or from someone protesting the Soulforce vigil, failing to contact Equality Loudoun as a community resource is quite troubling, to say the least. It gives the impression that there was an absence of due diligence.

Thanks for the invitation, but the advocacy work I do here is about our community, not myself. Equality Loudoun is an inclusive organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight allied people, and we have strict policies respecting confidentiality. It can't be inferred from the fact that an individual is involved with our group that he or she is a member of any one of those categories, which protects our members. Since GLBT people still don't enjoy protection from job discrimination in this state, I consider responding to rumors about individuals to be setting a precedent for baiting, as in "so-and-so is a member of Equality Loudoun, so he must be gay."

Actually, there were a couple of transgender youth on the Equality Ride who could have had a conversation with you, so it's too bad you weren't able to attend the reception.

I apologize if I "wandered into your world" uninvited. I didn't realize this was considered a closed forum and thought you welcomed comments from anyone in the community.

Posted by: David Weintraub | April 14, 2007 11:46 AM

Definitely not a closed community, David.

Sorry you're not interested in sharing your personal story to bring enlightenment to the many readers here.

It seems Soulforce and Equality Loudoun want to call the shots when it comes to communication. We're supposed to "hup two" to your invitations but you're not interested in ours.

Patrick Henry invited y'all to a debate in a neutral territory. Soulforce declined. But you feel offended when no one shows up at a restuarant to listen to your "program."

You want to come to this site to set us "close-minded" folk straight and yet when I give you an opportunity to tell your personal testimony you decline.

I've read some personal testimonies of gay people that are quite poignant and compelling - like Andrew Sullivan or Camille Paglia (who I especially admire because she doesn't follow the stirct party line and doesn't think teens should be encouraged to declare their sexual orientation nor that schools should be used for homosexual indoctrination). Reading them has helped me have more understanding and compassion. I thought you might want the same opportunity. And since I don't allow bashing at my blog, you would be safe from harsh comments.

You're a pretty good writer, David, but all I've ever read from you and Jonathan is critical material. Maybe you should try your hand at something more positive. And writing a compelling history of how you became who you are and giving us some insight into your world might be a good starting place.

Posted by: barbara | April 14, 2007 1:37 PM

Dear Barbara,

I'm a little perplexed at this response. I didn't think that I answered you unkindly - I certainly didn't intend to.

I agree that personal testimonies are very powerful and very important. That is exactly what the Equality Riders are doing, and why they are doing it. It just doesn't happen to be what I do right now. Maybe I will in the future, but right now the work I do is focused on the entire community, not myself. There are many personal testimonies available that I could point you and your readers to, if you are interested.

We hosted a reception for 60 people (which was a few more than we had anticipated, but that's not a bad problem to have). We did make a point of inviting those in the community who would likely be on the other side of this issue, some of them came, and there was good one-on-one dialogue. I'm not at all offended that any one individual didn't or couldn't come; it was an invitation, not a demand.

I hesitate to say this because it may anger you further. However, it does seem to me that, by becoming irritated that I'm declining to tell my personal story on your site, you are the one who is being a little demanding about the manner of communication.

Peace,

David

Posted by: David Weintraub | April 16, 2007 11:49 AM

Not irritated at all, David. You're reading too much into my words :)

Posted by: barbara | April 16, 2007 12:02 PM

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