Tuesday morning began just before nine o’clock. The bus pulled up to Cornerstone University, and we got off and headed toward the chapel, where the administration planned to debrief regarding our visit. Given that many Riders are of a Christian faith, and we had just spent two days conversing with Cornerstone students, it seemed appropriate for us to worship with our new friends, and also it made sense to be involved in a conversation about us. Several schools in the past had invited us to be a part of the debriefing, and though Cornerstone hadn’t officially invited us, the event was open to the public, so we showed up, many of us with our bibles, and sat among the students we had been conversing with in the days prior.
At 9:10, chapel was opened with a prayer, and then an administrator came down and, after making an analogy that compared the Equality Ride to the terrorists of 9/11, asked us to leave, and said he would give us 5 minutes to comply. Katie went to speak with him, and told him of our desire to be a part of the worship service, and to ask why he would choose to keep us from the house of G-d, to which he replied that “this isn’t a church.” After 5 minutes, most of the Riders left the chapel to stand vigil outside, along with several students who saw the absurdity. Angel and myself stayed behind, and the self-same administrator came down, and explained that the plan for the day had been for a group of administrators to explain the Equality Ride visit from their perspective, but, because of our disruption (by sitting unobtrusively in the room), there was no way they could get through everything that they needed to get through, and they cancelled chapel. They asked students instead to come to a “sexuality forum” to be held later this week.
As they were leaving, several students hugged us and smiled and said hello. One student thanked us for our willingness to come to Cornerstone. Angel and I, at that point, decided to go to the Cornerstone bookstore. The two of us hadn’t been asked to leave campus and hadn’t received any warnings from administration or police, so we asked a student to escort us to the bookstore to get some postcards.
After visiting the bookstore, as we walked back toward the chapel, a campus security guard called to us, and we turned to face him. He asked us where we had been, and we explained the whole story about chapel and then being escorted to the bookstore, and how we were heading back to join our friends. He waved the police over, since he was “tired of warning us.” We tried to explain that we had not once been asked to leave campus, but the police came up behind us and cut the conversation short.
They asked for our identification. We both pulled them out of back pockets, and the one radioed in to have our records run. We were asked if we had been arrested before, and both in unison replied, “yes, sir”, then he asked for what, and again in unison we replied, “trespassing.” The officer gave us a funny look, but when we didn’t have any warrants on our record, we were asked for the first time to leave campus, which we did.
This stop really drove home to me how much work we have to do as Equality Riders. This school is less than an hour away from where I grew up, and the gay students there live in fear every day. Students at this school are indoctrinated in hate.
I give thanks to every student who, over the course of our time at this school, took the time to talk with us, and to try to find a place of understanding and reconciliation. You’ve taken a brave step, and I commend you for it. Now, let’s keep the conversation going.