Karen Pence has taken the rare step of accepting a teaching position during her tenure as Second Lady of the United States. For two days a week, "Mrs. Pence" will be teaching elementary art at Immanuel Christian School in northern Virginia. She previously taught at the school for 12 years between 2001 and 2013.
"I am excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do, which is to teach art to elementary students," Mrs. Pence said.
It sounded harmless. But, it didn't take media long to find the now controversial "parent agreement" on the school's website. It was rule No. 6 in particular that is causing a scandal.
I understand the biblical role of Immanuel Christian School is to partner with families to encourage students to be imitators of Christ. This necessarily involves the school’s understanding and belief regarding biblical morality and standards of conduct. I understand that the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes, but is not limited to contumacious behavior, divisive conduct, and participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity, promoting such practices, or being unable to support the moral principles of the school. (Lev. 20:13 and Romans 1:27.) I acknowledge the importance of a family culture based on biblical principles and embrace biblical family values such as a healthy marriage between one man and one woman. My role as spiritual mentor to my children will be taken seriously.
Cue headlines like this: "Karen Pence teaching art at school that bans gay students, parents."
Groups like the ACLU also sounded off on the "terrible message" Pence was sending, while representatives from the Human Rights Campaign accused the Pences of treating LGBT individuals as "second class citizens."
This sends a terrible message to students.— ACLU (@ACLU) January 16, 2019
Do we want to live in a country with leaders who are willing to disavow LGBTQ youth? https://t.co/XZ8ar5uunm
Why not serve at a school that welcomes everyone? Not a week passes without some reminder that the Pences view LGBTQ people as second class citizens. https://t.co/j54PiHL6qn— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) January 16, 2019
Pence's office shot back at the outrage.
"It's absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school's religious beliefs, are under attack," said Kara Brooks, Mrs. Pence's communications director.
The vice president also told media that his family can handle the criticism.
.@VP tells me “we’ll let the critics roll off our backs” re: @SecondLady working as a Christian school art teacher but “the critism of Christian education in America should stop.” My interview w/ @mike_pence tonight on @EWTNNewsNightly @EWTN 7pm ET pic.twitter.com/HGhEELZwgC— Lauren Ashburn (@LaurenAshburn) January 17, 2019
As Pence's supporters noted, perhaps the Immanuel Christian School is just following its Christian tenets. It's something called religious freedom.