Haven Herrin had barely stepped onto the campus at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg when a policeman arrested her. Herrin was only a visitor to the campus, and her charge of trespassing was relatively minor in comparison to what actual BYU-I students have pulled off. So why is Herrin getting more national attention?
Herrin is a member of Soulforce, a nondenominational group founded by the Rev. Mel White, an evangelical Christian who ghostwrote books for Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell before coming out in 1994. Soulforce visits religious universities and stages peaceful demonstrations, in Herrin's words, "to send a very clear message about our families, and how church teachings and, thus, the school policies are very detrimental to us and our families and tear us apart, because it leads everyone to think that they have to choose between their faith and their child."
BYU-I is the 25th school Soulforce has visited this year. Herrin and her colleagues even repeatedly called ahead to announce their arrival, though the church-owned school wouldn't entertain letting them in. But the reason Herrin and seven others were arrested, says BYU-I spokesman Marc Stevens, wasn't because of their cause. "The campus is private property, and the city just enforced the city's private property right," Stevens said. "The university has a longstanding policy that the campus cannot be used by any outside group as a public forum to advance their agenda. Whether Soulforce or any other group, the same policy would apply." He added, however, that Soulforce was the first group to his knowledge whose members had been arrested at the school in such a way.
Herrin said she and her seven fellow arrestees spent the following day in Rexburg performing community service in the city park as a memorial to the victims of the Virginia Tech University shooting. Asked whether these hours would count toward the penalty she had received the day before, she said, "We're still engaged in the process of dealing with that."