Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, has accepted a job at a school that discriminates against LGBTQ+ teachers and students. She will teach art part-time at Immanuel Christian School, a private K-8 school in Springfield, VA.
In its employment application for teachers and staff, the school requires applicants — who must promise that they are born-again Christians — to adhere to the following belief:
"I understand that the term 'marriage' has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture."
It also defines as "moral misconduct" behaviors including: "heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law."
Don't overlook this as yet another Trump administration distraction. Let's call this what it is: religious extremism having crept so deeply into the upper echelons of government that people are no longer bothering, or are simply too exhausted, to be outraged.
The wife of the Vice President of the United States of America is choosing to spend a great deal of her time in — and therefore to endorse to the public — a school that denies the humanity of over 11 million Americans. A school that either doesn't believe trans people exist or simply doesn't care. Which is teaching these values to children ages 5 to 13.
Karen Pence, who previously taught at Immanuel when Mike Pence was in Congress, knows exactly what she's doing.
She knows what she's doing because it's exactly what the Trump administration has been doing all along. From instructing staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to use the word "transgender" in documents, to pushing for the transgender military ban, to hanging out with anti-LGBTQ+ activists, this administration — especially Mike Pence — has a long history of being hostile to LGBTQ+ people. And let's not forget Mike Pence's defense of groups that promote "conversion therapy" before he became VP.
I would hope that Karen Pence is aware of the implications of her actions. There are many children in America who are struggling with their sexuality and their gender identity. I wish she would do better.
Jerri Ann Henry, executive director, Log Cabin Republicans
Jerri Ann Henry, the first woman executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told Refinery29 that while she thinks the second lady could set a much better example, the school is a private organization that is free to do what it wants.
"I will defend vigorously organizations like this school; I will defend their right to do whatever they want," she said. "But I would hope that Karen Pence is aware of the implications of her actions. There are many children in America who are struggling with their sexuality and their gender identity. I wish she would do better, and I would love to talk to her about how she can provide a great example for all Americans, including the LGBTQ ones."
But Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, called on Immanuel Christian School to abandon its discriminatory policy.
"Immanuel Christian School should immediately reexamine its policy of open discrimination against LGBTQ students and understand just how dangerous it is to further marginalize young people who are struggling to come to terms with their identity or have made the courageous choice to come out as LGBTQ in a difficult environment," she said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
Ellis noted that just recently, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released a report that found LGBTQ+ students, specifically those who are transgender and gender-nonconforming, have experienced more hostility at their schools in the past two years.
"It’s disturbing second lady Karen Pence would put her stamp of approval on an institution that actively targets LGBTQ students at one of the places where they should feel the safest," Ellis said. "When young people are coming to terms with their sexual orientation and gender identity, they deserve to have the support of the adults in their lives. Often the arts are a safe haven for these students, and let’s be honest — we wouldn’t have some of the world’s most profound and impactful art if it weren’t for LGBTQ people. As an art teacher, I suspect she is aware of that. She should leave this teaching post and join the faculty of an institution that values and supports the acceptance of all students."
So, what can you do? Donate to and volunteer for organizations like GLAAD, the Trans Lifeline, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), and The Trevor Project. Read this guide to intervening when you witness homophobic or racist assaults. Don't throw up your hands and act like it's normal for a member of the Vice President's family to work at a school with these discriminatory practices. For more ideas, check out our guide on LGBTQ+ issues under the Trump presidency.
We reached out to Karen Pence's spokesperson Kara Brooks and Immanuel Christian School, and will update this story when we hear back.