Celebrating 15 Years: Soulforce Volunteers Arrested at Southern Baptist Convention in 2002

Remembering Soulforce’s actions at the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention in Saint Louis, our 15 for 15 campaign continues, celebrating 15 years of Soulforce activism. So far we have raised more than $1800 toward our goal of $15,000 by the end of Pride Month! Please donate here: http://soulforce.com/donate.

12 Soulforce Supporters Take Pro-Gay Message to Southern Baptist Convention Inside the America’s Center

“June 11, 2002: Twelve nonviolent protesters were arrested today when they took their message opposing Southern Baptist teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people to the floor of the SBC’s annual meeting at the America’s Center in St. Louis. An additional 38 people were arrested outside the America’s Center trying to enter the Convention…

“‘For three years we have tried to get [Southern Baptist Convention President] James Merritt to hear our stories, to consider the evidence that shows that homosexuality is not a sickness and not a sin,’ said Rev. Jimmy Creech, Chairperson of the Board of Soulforce, Inc, and one of the 12 arrested inside the convention center. ‘Because of the suffering caused by their teachings, we were compelled to carry our message into the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.’

“Soulforce was present at the SBC’s annual meetings in Orlando in 2000 and New Orleans in 2001 to protest their antigay policies and teachings. Soulforce participants were arrested at both those meetings as well. However, this marks the first time that Soulforce has participated in a direct action that took their message inside a meeting.

“The twelve who were arrested inside the convention were booked on a felony charge of ‘Ethnic Intimidation’ and a misdemeanor trespassing charge. The felony charge was dropped, and arrestees were allowed to go on their own recognizance. Those arrested on the outside were charged with 2 city ordinance violations, and released after a few hours. Bond was set at $200, and court cost will be added.

“200 Soulforce participants had lined the entrances to the America’s Center and watched and cheered while the arrests were being made outside the convention. Many carried signs that said, “Stop Spiritual Violence”, and a banner that said, ‘Southern Baptist Teachings are Killing God’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Children’ was prominently displayed for all those who were watching.

“Soulforce co-founder and director Rev. Mel White sent Merritt a letter dated May 23 asking him to join Soulforce in a press conference to denounce the anti-gay rhetoric of Southern Baptist Chief Justice Roy Moore. The letter stated that Soulforce supporters would try to take the message that ‘Southern Baptist teachings are killing God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children” inside the convention center if Merritt would not denounce Moore’s rhetoric.”

(In an official judicial decision, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had said, “The state must use…confinement and even execution” to prevent gays and lesbians from influencing children.)

“From June 7-10, trainings and workshops for the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change took place at Centenary United Methodist Church, 55 Plaza Square in St. Louis, Missouri. The keynote speaker was Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and founder of the M.K. Institute of Nonviolence.”

Read a personal account of being arrested at the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention here.