Vice President Mike Pence is offended at the criticism of his wife Karen Pence’s decision to teach at a school in Virginia that discriminates against LGBT+ students and staff.
Pence has addressed the backlash to the second lady, who will return to teach at Immanuel Christian School as an art teacher, in an interview to Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a cable network that describes itself as delivering “news from a Catholic perspective.”
“To see major news organisations attacking Christian education is deeply offensive to us,” Pence told a EWTN reporter on Thursday (January 17).
“This criticism of Christian education in America should stop.”
— Mike Pence
“We have a rich tradition in America of Christian education and frankly religious education broadly defined,” he continued, ignoring the issue of discrimination against LGBT+ people and framing the debate in terms of religious freedoms.
“This criticism of Christian education in America should stop,” he added.
The interviewer did not ask any further questions addressing the specific concerns of the LGBT+ community and moved on to discuss America’s participation in the conflict in Syria, letting Pence off the hook.
Mike Pence’s older brother claims vice president is not anti-LGBT
Pence’s older brother, Indiana Congressman Greg Pence, defended his sibling and his sister-in-law from accusations of being anti-LGBT, telling a TMZ reporter: “My brother and sister-in-law are not.”
His view contrasted the vice president’s record on LGBT+ rights, which shows Pence has consistently opposed LGBT+ protections from discrimination, largely in view of his support for religious freedoms.
The second lady has so far remained silent on the criticism of the school’s anti-LGBT policies. When news of her job at Immanuel Christian School first broke, her spokesperson Kara Brooks told the Huffington Post and The Washington Post the criticism of the school was “absurd.”
“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.
School’s anti-LGBT policies are harmful, gay alumnus says
An alumnus of the school who is an out gay man, Luke Hartman, spoke of the lasting mental health damage the school’s anti-LGBT policies caused him.
“As an alumnus of Immanuel Christian School, I am a living example that intolerance, both in policy and rhetoric, are harmful to the mental wellness and development of LGBTQ students, who are desperately looking for ways to fit in,” Hartman said in a statement provided to the press via LGBT+ group The Trevor Project.
He added: “The silent and spoken messages of rejection that are constantly felt by LGBTQ students directly impact the relationship they have with their faith, education, and relationships with family and friends—ultimately resulting in a feeling of being less than when compared to their straight and cisgender peers.”