Posted by Philip Poole on 2007-03-01

Samford University has learned that Soulforce is planning to visit the university's campus March 30. The visit is one of 32 announced visits to Christian colleges and universities in March and April.

Soulforce is a gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender rights group that has been conducting a campaign called "Equality Ride" since 2006. The university received a letter from Soulforce earlier this year saying they intended to visit the Samford campus as part of their 2007 ride.

According to the letter from Equality Ride co-director Jarrett Lucas, the stated purpose of the Samford visit is "to engage in peaceful and earnest dialog where we feel our humanity is impugned." Lucas' letter said that Soulforce officials believe that Samford policies "create a disparity between treatment of homosexual and heterosexual students."

"In keeping with the university's Christian mission, our student handbook prohibits all sexual activity outside of marriage regardless of sexual orientation," said Matthew Kerlin, Samford's university minister.

Kerlin said Samford "hopes the dialog with the Equality Riders will clear up these misconceptions and provide an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ."

Kerlin is working with Soulforce representatives on plans for the March 30 visit. The university has proposed a format for the visit that will include conversations with university administrators, faculty, staff and students.

"Samford has more than 100,000 visitors on campus annually, and we believe the Samford community will treat the Soulforce guests with the same courtesy and respect we extend to all guests," he said. "We, of course, expect likewise from the Equality Riders. Our goal is to articulate clearly our convictions while reflecting the love of Jesus Christ even to those with whom we may disagree."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.