Thousands protest Mike Pence's commencement speech at Christian college: 'It's divisive and dangerous'

Vice-President Mike Pence (pictured with Second Lady Karen Pence) is the featured commencement speaker at Taylor University in May. (Photo: Getty Images)
Vice-President Mike Pence (pictured with Second Lady Karen Pence) is the featured commencement speaker at Taylor University in May. (Photo: Getty Images)

Thousands are voicing their displeasure that Vice President Mike Pence will deliver a commencement speech at a Christian college in Indiana.

On Thursday, Taylor University, a small Christian college in Upland, Indiana (Pence’s home state), wrote on Facebook and its website, “Taylor University is honored to have Vice President Mike Pence featured as our commencement speaker. Mr. Pence has been a good friend to the University over many years, and is a Christian brother whose life and values have exemplified what we strive to instill in our graduates.”

The May 18th invitation incited 3.6K Facebook comments on whether Pence’s attendance would be positive or “divisive and dangerous,” and a petition with almost 4,000 signatures called the partnership inconsistent with Christian values.

Alex Hoekstra, a 2007 Taylor University alumni who wrote the petition, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that critics are “deeply uncomfortable” with the vice president’s attendance. “These are people — gay, female, immigrants — who feel personally injured by policies set forth by the administration,” he says. “That includes Republicans and those who voted for Donald Trump.”

“We are surprised the school did not do its homework on this one,” adds Hoekstra.

Renee Butterfield, a marketing and brand strategist in Washington, D.C. who graduated from Taylor University in 2002 stays connected to the tight community of roughly 2,500 students. “I signed the petition because the Trump administration is advocating policies that go against my beliefs as a practicing Christian,” Butterfield tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“I was personally heartbroken when Taylor chose Mike Pence as its speaker,” says the former political science and philosophy major. “He represents a very specific worldview. As a Christian, I don’t believe America should put kids in cages,” she said, alluding to the reported thousands of children separated from their parents under the administration’s immigration policy.

“Mike Pence does not represent the best of us as believers,” Butterfield tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Taylor adjunct faculty member Amy Peterson wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this week, “This decision doesn’t reassure those with underrepresented voices that they can flourish at Taylor; it leaves them feeling isolated and invisible. It reads like a deliberate and definitive statement about who we are and about what we think virtue in the public sphere looks like — and, by implication, who doesn’t belong.”

In 2017, students at the University of Notre Dame booed and left their own graduation ceremony when Pence, the featured speaker, took the stage, reported NPR. Some wore rainbow-colored regalia to protest Pence’s past policies on same-sex rights — the former Indiana governor signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 which held potential to legalize discrimination of LGBTQ people, according to HuffPost.

James R. Garringer, director of media relations at Taylor University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Since making the announcement of Vice President Mike Pence’s upcoming commencement speech, we have received feedback from people on either side of the issue. Taylor University is an intentional Christian community that strives to encourage positive, respectful and meaningful dialogue. We look forward to hosting the Vice President next month.”

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