A Christian college in Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana is facing backlash from some alumni and students for the school’s decision to book Pence, a former Indiana governor and six-term U.S. House member, as spring commencement speaker.
Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, announced April 11 that Pence would be the featured speaker during the May 18 ceremony, prompting a protest petition on Change.org begun by an openly gay 2007 Taylor graduate and former Democratic Party operations director. As of April 16, the petition had been signed by some 4,200 people, many who claim to be students or former students of Taylor.
A counter petition supporting Pence’s invitation, also on Change.org, went without notice to most media outlets and had garnered around 1,800 signatures by April 16.
Taylor’s president, Dr. Paul Lowell Haines, said in a statement: “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. We welcome the Vice President and his wife, Karen Pence, to this 173-year-old premier institution of Christian higher education, and thank them for their love and service for our nation, our state, and our institution.”
Franklin Graham, on his Facebook page, said of the controversy: “I don’t understand this. … They should be absolutely thrilled. But instead, this group started a petition to rescind the invitation because they say the administration is ‘not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.’ … This reminds me of Paul’s words, ‘You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?’ (Galatians 3:1).”
The Taylor graduate who started the protest petition, Alex Hoekstra, was operations director for the Oregon Democratic Party before assuming a similar role with the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., according to his Linkedin page.
Josie Luptak, who earned her degree in December but will walk in cap and gown next month, told Decision in an email she believes the students who want Pence disinvited are a small but influential minority.
“Politics aside, how cool is it that the vice president of the United States is speaking at my graduation?” she said. “But then, the texts and tweets started rolling in. I was disappointed in my peers’ reaction to such a unique opportunity. I saw words like disgusting and horrifying, which were clearly reactions from emotion and not reason.”
Luptak added: “As Christians, we are called to listen and treat others with respect. … If you signed [the petition] because you think Pence is ‘disgusting’ or ‘horrifying,’ I challenge you not to skip the speech or walk out—but to sit in the gymnasium on May 18 with a posture of learning, and hear what the man has to say.”
Feature Image: Alamy Stock Photo