A Christian college in northwest Iowa has issued a statement saying it regrets that 25 gay rights activists were harassed Wednesday night in Sioux Center. The so-called “Equality Ride 2007” is making stops at 32 Christian colleges across the country, and had a stopover Wednesday night in Sioux Center.
Kyle DeVries, a spokesman for the touring group, says three pickup trucks began circling the group’s hotel.”Nothing happened there expect two males, young adults, got out of the cars and dropped their pants,” DeVries says. “We woke up the next morning to find that our bus had been defaced and vandalized.” DeVries says anti-gay slurs — one of which was misspelled — had been painted on the bus. The group loaded up the bus, though, and headed for its stop on the Dordt College campus in Sioux Center.
The Dordt College maintenance staff helped clean the “hateful” words off the bus, according to DeVries. “We were actually really appreciative,” DeVries says. “First off, the university president, when we arrived at Dordt’s campus yesterday, apologized sincerely for the actions taken by the community. They helped us clean off the bus and overall our visit with Dordt College went amazingly well. The campus administration was very welcoming…so we’ve been really appreciative of the way Dordt College has handled things.”
Yet DeVries says his gay rights group still objects to the Christian college’s policy which he says threatens to expel students who are found in a homosexual relationship. “This is really indicative of how these policies can bleed into the community at large,” DeVries says. “The discriminatory policy that Dordt College has against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students doesn’t just effect the students on campus but rather creates a mind set in the community that allows these kinds of acts of violence to occur.”
Dordt is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church of North America and Ken Boersma, vice president of student services at Dordt, says he and other administrators regret the harassment happened.”We certainly do not support any actions such as this that are hateful toward any individual and for something like this to happen in our town is something that we regret and wish didn’t happen,” Boersma says. “We did arrange for our maintenance staff to clean the bus in response.”
The school’s website promotes a campus that is “permeated with the spirit and teaching of Christianity” and where “biblical principles” help students learn to live “balanced, wholesome” lifestyles. That includes rules for sexual conduct, according to Boersma. “It’s based on our biblical understanding that the appropriate interaction is (in) a committed marriage relationship between a man and a woman,” Boersma says. “We would not accept premarital, extramarital or homosexual sexual relationships.”
Boersma says Dordt welcomes the gay rights activists to campus, and Dordt students and administrators disagreed without being disagreeable. “The opportunity to interact with the Equality riders was an important learning opportunity for our campus community. We desired to show Christian grace in interacting with the riders and to be an effective Christian witness,” Boersma says. “Even if we ended up in disagreement with their position, we felt it was important that we were also being gracious in interacting with them while they were here on campus.”