Journey to Non-Violence


More than 5,000 people followed this eight-week Journey into Soulforce to prepare, as Gandhi and King taught, for the historic 1999 Soulforce meeting with Rev. Jerry Falwell, confronting the religion-based oppression against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Dotti was one of 200 who were invited to be a part of that original group in Lynchburg, VA, when Rev. Falwell would only agree to meet if Soulforce limited the number to 200 to meet with 200 of his church members. 


from their website

Gandhi developed and refined his Satyagraha or "soul force" or "truth force" principles while leading justice movements in South Africa (1893-1915) and India (1915-1948). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. discovered Gandhi's "soul force" rules and used them to shape his own nonviolent civil rights movement in America (1955-1968).

"While the Montgomery boycott was going on," King writes, "India's Gandhi was our guiding light...Nonviolent resistance emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal." Dr. King believed that Jesus and the Jewish prophets furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method.

Mel White, author of Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay & Christian in America, (and Jerry Falwell's ghostwriter), said, "How would our civil rights movement be different if we rediscovered and applied those 'soul force' principles in our response to Jerry Falwell (and the others)? What might happen if we began by seeing Jerry as a 'fallen brother', a victim of misinformation as we have been? (Even if we have to do it by faith.)"  Mel White and his partner, Gary Nixon, took these principles to heart and began the journey to wholeness, utilizing their new organization, Soulforce, to ignite a love for these "fallen brothers and sisters" who are victims of misinformation.

Any person who is interested in non-violent process can utilize these steps to bridge the polarization between people in any area.

Click here for the original 17 Step Journey into Soulforce.

Dotti:  Roby became involved with Soulforce in 2002 after meeting Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, who introduced her to me...the rest is history! :)   I originally met Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, who lost their lesbian daughter to suicide, at that historic meeting.  (more about our story, and meeting them) We learned much through the 17 Step Journey into Soulforce, which continues to shape my perspective and life.  We were taught to offer no violence of the fist, tongue or heart. WOW!  The first two are ones that, if not done, can expose us because of the results.  The heart is trickier--it is easy to deceive ourselves and others, but violence of the heart eats away at our soul and harms us all. The Soulforce event in 1999 was my first encounter with Fred Phelps and his church/family as they picketed outside the church who hosted us. Civil rights activist Rodney Powell taught us understanding and the opportunity to see Fred and any adversary in a whole new light at a full-day workshop on non-violence and civil disobedience.  Who is Rodney Powell?  He is a courageous and soft-spoken African-American gay man, who many years earlier dressed in his best suit and sat at a lunch counter, waiting to be served, before being pulled away and jailed with others.  It is one of our history's saddest, but most memorable moments, in the walk toward justice and equality. Rodney shared eloquently from his heart about the importance of understanding that Fred is a victim of misinformation.  My life has never been the same since that day. I continuously measure my actions against those of Rodney Powell, both as an adult and as a young man. He is my hero. Rodney said that two things stood out about the civil rights era that contrast with what we have to endure.  He said, "We had both our families and our church.  Gay people often have neither."   Rodney is now a doctor in Hawaii who shares his life with his partner of 25+ years. 

Below is the pledge card we each signed and carried with us as we stood outside Rev. Falwell's church in an act of civil disobedience.  

Soulforce Pledge to Nonviolence

Take The Pledge to Nonviolence -- print and sign.

Pledge to Nonviolence
The Pledge to Nonviolence
Originally written by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Modified by Soulforce, Inc. 2003

  1. As I prepare for this direct action, I will meditate regularly on the life and teachings of Gandhi and King and other truth-seekers.
  2. I will remember that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation-not victory.
  3. I will walk and talk in the manner of love andnonviolence.
  4. I will contemplate daily what I can do so that all can be free.
  5. I will sacrifice my own personal wishes that all might be free.
  6. I will observe with friend and foes the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. I will perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. I will refrain from violence of fist, tongue, and heart.
  9. I will strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. I will follow the directions of the squad leaders and other Soulforce leaders on our nonviolent direct actions.

(Your Name)



Rodney (in tan) standing next to Dotti after their arrest for a act of civil disobedience, part of a direct action with Soulforce in Washington D.C. 2002. They handcuffed us and took us all by bus to the police station. 

Dotti: I sat amazed as Rodney gave a history lesson to a middle-aged African-American man who was driving the bus.  Rodney explained that because of the civil rights era and direct actions just like the one we did that day, he could now sit in the front, rather than the back, of the bus.

Our non-violent actions work to bring equal rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, recognizing that religious teachings are at the root of the oppression and create spiritual violence against our community.


The Soulforce Youth Group for Equality and Justice

Click here for the original 17 Step Journey into Soulforce.

To learn more about the Civil Rights Era, click on the links below. 

The Civil Rights Era:
Part I: Desegregation/Civil Rights in the Arena and on the Stage

The Civil Rights Era:
Part II: Sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and Demonstrations

In Part 1 and 2, you can also see what Rodney Powell (Soulforce board member) who took a seat at the lunch counter when he was a young man, says about The Equality Ride, a response to the anit-gay teachings of Christian colleges/universities and military schools and the modern day equivalent to what the Freedom Riders did during the civil rights era

Click here for African American Odyssey from the Library of Congress