VP's Wife Karen Pence Set To Teach The Art Of Bashing Queers
Karen Pence must feel the ides of Mueller approaching. Vice President Mike Pence's wife has re-entered the workforce, perhaps anticipating the need to keep an income stream flowing into their pious household. She is set to teach art to elementary school kids at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia. She accepted the job offer in December, just after the midterm elections (no connection, we're sure), and will teach twice a week through May.
"I am excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do, which is to teach art to elementary students," Pence said in the White House statement. "I have missed teaching art, and it's great to return to the school where I taught art for twelve years."
Immanuel Christian School is not the most welcoming place. The school's "parent agreement," posted on its website, affirms its right to refuse admission to or kick out students who participate and condone in homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity (gotta cover all the bases). Elementary school kids shouldn't have a problem winning the "no participation" trophy, but it's less clear how the school defines "condoning" homosexual "activity." Can they attend a gay uncle's wedding? Or are they required to give queers the stink eye at all times?
The school is naturally even more selective over who it employs. Teachers and support staff are required to be born-again Christians who believe marriage is between one boring man and an equally boring woman. They must confirm where they stand on the creationism vs. evolution "debate." Applicants must also pledge to live "a personal life of moral purity," which is defined pretty much as you'd expect.
"Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: 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."
"Moral misconduct" is not just all the good stuff you see on Cinemax but also simply existing while queer. A gay couple just sitting in their apartment listening to "Follies" is hardly "moral misconduct." There's no RedTube channel for that (well, there might be -- people are weird). One could argue that your average lesbian or transperson is a better example of "moral purity" than someone whose husband willingly works for a mob boss, but we shouldn't judge Pence's alternative lifestyle.
It wasn't long after Huffington Post reporter Rebecca Klein noted the discriminatory policies at Pence's new school that folks rushed to point out that they're pretty much standard operating procedure for most evangelical Christian schools. Conservative Christians just plain don't dig queers, and they happen to worship a God who conveniently shares all their prejudices. It's a match made on OKBigot. All those wacky liberal, barefoot hippie Christians you know who don't think the gays have cooties are apparently a very small minority.
Remember back in 2008 when Barack Obama had to denounce his former pastor who said salty things about white people? That was not religious freedom. Openly reviling queer people is religious freedom, however, and how dare anyone criticize anti-gay bigotry in 2019!
Kara Brooks, a spokeswoman for Pence, pointed out that the second lady had taught at the school for 12 years previously when Mike Pence was a member of Congress.
"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.
Seriously, what's with Christians and their martyrdom? (Quickly reads New Testament... oh right.) They're such drama queens. If your Christian faith advises you to dislike gays, you apparently have a protected Constitutional right to deny other Americans their Constitutional rights. But if, for example, your Islamic faith recommends you look down on Jews, that's just downright un-American. Why don't we consider Mike and Karen Pence just as much a bigoted threat as Louis Farrakhan? Their homophobia disguised as "religious beliefs" is just as repulsive as Steve King's racism.
Americans have mostly shrugged off the vice president's sneering contempt for a segment of the population. Trump joked about Pence wanting to "hang" all gays and that received far less press attention than his "shitholes" comment. No one condemned it. Pence didn't even deny it. If Trump had blurted out that Pence liked to run over dogs, the vice president's people would've tweeted out a photo of him hugging puppies within 24 hours.
It's unfortunately perfectly legal in Virginia and at least a dozen other states for private employers to discriminate against people based on their sexual or gender identity. Karen Pence helps normalize that practice. Maybe Christ would be OK with it, but we're not.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.