Karen Pence Faces Backlash for New Teaching Position
Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, accepted a teaching position at a private Christian school in Virginia. Pence faced widespread backlash, however, when Huffington Post reporter Rebecca Klein posted an image on Twitter of some of the school’s employment requirements as outlined in its “Statement of Faith.” The school, Immanuel Christian, requires its employees to vehemently disavow practices that it deems immoral. Such practices include, but are not limited to, heterosexual activity outside of marriage, homosexual activity, and transgender identity. The school also states that “any...violation of the unique roles of male and female” constitutes moral misconduct.
Any employee, parent, or student who is found to participate in these activities and identities that the school deems immoral is subject to firing, expulsion, or denial of a job. Not only are employees and families prohibited from participating in such actions and lifestyles themselves, but they are also barred from condoning others who do so.
Further, Immanuel Christian School requires that its employees and parents sign a statement indicating their dedication to and alignment with the views of the school’s tenets, a few of which claim “a wife is commanded to submit to her husband,” “the Earth is only 6,000 years old,” and that the scientific theory of evolution should be rejected.
Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at George Washington Law School, noted that this type of requirement is common for conservative Christian schools. Moreover, it remains legal for private employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the state of Virginia.
Pence is well within her rights to work at Immanuel Christian School, and the school itself may lawfully discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community in hiring and admissions practices. Even so, the tide of national politics remains at odds with institutions like the Immanuel School, especially in the wake of the 2015 landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. The case provided same-sex couples the right of same-sex couples to marry underis protected in the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. While the school — a private institution — is not completely beholden to this ruling, a number of leaders of historically liberal-leaning nonprofit organizations have expressed their discontentment with Pence’s new employment because of high-level status in the public sphere.
JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, inquired of Pence’s decision: “Why not teach at a school that welcomes everyone, instead of choosing one that won’t serve LGBTQ kids, kids of LGBTQ parents?”
Vice President Mike Pence came to his wife’s defense, expressing his disappointment in the “criticism of Christian education in America.” Additionally, Kara Brooks, a spokeswoman for Karen Pence, said: “It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack.”
In response, the National Center for Transgender Equality clarified that it found the school’s policy in particular to be deeply offensive, seemingly denying that its discontent was not a personal attack on Pence. Conversely, Winterhof expressed, “The Pences never seem to miss an opportunity to show their public service only extends to some.”