Vice President of the United States Mike Pence says it’s “deeply offensive” that his wife Karen Pence is being criticised for teaching art at a Christian school which bans gay staff and students.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the Second Lady of the United States would return to teaching at Immanuel Christian School, which actively and openly discriminates against LGBTI students and employees.
“We’ll let the critics roll off our backs. But this criticism of Christian education should stop.”
The Huffington Post reported on a ‘parent agreement’ published by the school earlier this week, which stated that the school would refuse to admit students who participate in or condone “homosexuality activity”.
Last year’s employment application at the school forced potential candidates to sign a pledge to not subvert the “unique roles of male and female”.
“Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following,” the application reads, before listing off “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.”
The application says the school also enforces the belief that marriage is restricted to one man and one woman and supports the idea that “a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.”
Immanuel Christian School is located in Virginia, just one of many US states lacking anti-discrimination employment protections for LGBTI people.
Mike Pence is considered a noted anti-LGBTI figure in US politics, having once supported federal funding for programs designed to treat people “seeking to change their sexual behavior”.
He has also been widely criticised for his non-response to a surge in HIV transmissions in Indiana during his time as Governor, with researchers estimating that a faster public health response could have helped prevent a large number of the 215 new cases.
In 2014, a cluster of new infections among intravenous drug users was detected in an Indiana county, with Pence opting to “pray on it” rather than take immediate preventative action.
Pence was the White House representative who was chosen to mark World AIDS Day 2018, failing entirely to mention LGBTI people in his speech.
While a US congressman, he advocated for abstinence-based sex education and argued against the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV transmissions.
He this week defended the “rich tradition” of Christian education, and its faith-based exclusion of LGBTI people in the United States, a subject which has dominated headlines in Australia in recent months around the debate over religious freedoms.
“We have a rich tradition in America of Christian education and frankly religious education broadly defined,” he said.
“We celebrate it. The freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.”