American taxpayer dollars are now being spent in the form of security at a school that bans gay students and specifically prohibits its employees from supporting or condoning “homosexual or lesbian sexual activity.”
Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, started a new job this week teaching art at the Immanuel Christian School, a deeply conservative and discriminatory institution that teaches “a Christian world and life view,” commands wives to “submit to her husband,” and requires its employees to sign an agreement falsely declaring “that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union” — despite the fact that same-sex marriage is the law of the land across the entire United States.
With the protection of the secret service, Pence will be teaching at the school twice per week until May, according to the Associated Press. The second lady’s spokesperson, Kara Brooks, blasted critics who have pointed to the school’s disturbing policies.
“It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack,” Brooks said, according to AP.
Brooks could not be reached for further comment. The Immanuel Christian School did not respond to inquiries regarding its anti-LGBTQ policies or Pence’s employment there.
The second lady has been hit with criticism over her new gig, which marks a sharp contrast with former Second Lady Jill Bilden’s teaching job at Northern Virginia Community College, which is a public school that offers on-campus resources for LGBTQ students.
“Why not serve at a school that welcomes everyone?,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, asked on Twitter. “Not a week passes without some reminder that the Pences view LGBTQ people as second class citizens.”GLSEN, which is an organization that works to create safe and inclusive environments for LGBTQ people in K-12 schools, said Pence is sending “a deeply hurtful message to LGBTQ youth and those who support them.”“If Karen Pence wishes to return to teaching while serving in such an important and visible role, she should not do so at an institution that has policies that will cause pain to so many of our nation’s youth,” said Eliza Byard, who serves as GLSEN’s executive director.
The news of Pence’s employment at a blatantly homophobic school comes at a time when governors of many US states are taking action to not only protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination but also prevent their respective states from doing business with those who discriminate against LGBTQ folks. However, the school is able to get away with its policies because Virginia is among states that allow private employers to discriminate against people on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Pence family has long been tied to the school, dating back to the vice president’s time in Congress. Pence’s daughter, Charlotte, is a graduate of Immanuel Christian, according to the school’s website, and a spokesperson told HuffPost that Karen previously taught at the school for 12 years.
The school is also profiting off of Pence’s job as vice president: Karen and Charlotte recently led a student assembly where they shared their book, Marlon Bundo’s “A Day In The Life of the Vice President,” which is for sale at the Immanuel Christian Bookstore.
The family’s latest foray into the school marks the latest twist in the extensive history of homophobia tied to Mike Pence. He voted against Employment Non-Discrimination Act during his time in Congress, sought to shift HIV funding to places that “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” and, among many other actions he took against the community, was a staunch defender of the ban on LGBTQ folks from the military (which remains an ongoing issue amid Trump’s sudden declaration on Twitter in the summer of 2017 that transgender people would be barred from the military).
The biggest example of homophobia for Pence — which might have had him headed for defeat in reelection for governor in 2016 had he not joined the Trump team — came in 2015 when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave businesses and individuals the ability to claim religious exemptions from following state and local law. It was seen as a way for businesses and people to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and the backlash was so severe that it forced lawmakers to go back to the drawing board.
The second lady’s new job further highlights the Trump administration’s neglect of LGBTQ rights in the education realm. In 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos scaled back the Office for Civil Rights’ approach to investigating complaints to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination, and last year the Department of Education said it would not investigate complaints by transgender students who are unable to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity.