Karen Pence, the wife of vice president Mike Pence, has recently started a new job as an art teacher at the Immanuel Christian School in Virginia.
Pence was previously employed at the school between 2001 and 2013 when her husband was a member of the House of Representatives but her return to the role, given Mr. Pence's ascension to veep has attracted criticism due to the school barring LGBT+ students from their institute.
As the New York Times reports, within the school's 'Articles of Employment' their definition of what marriage constitutes and their stance on sexual identity is:
I understand that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman,” it reads, adding that certain “moral misconduct” would be disqualifying, such as “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.
As the wife of the vice president, people have taken exception to Pence taking a role in this school as it potentially sends out the wrong message to LGBT+ people and parents around the United States.
So, rather than make grand protests or force her out of the job, The Trevor Project, an LGBT+ youth suicide prevention organisation is sending 100 copies of the children's book A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.
If you haven't heard of the book, it was created last year by the 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' show and parodies the Pence's own pet - and the vice president's documented anti-gay views - as a gay rabbit and teaches kids about the importance of acceptance.
All sales of the book have gone directly to The Trevor Project but they are hoping that the copies that they are sending to the school can send a powerful message to the staff and students.
In a statement on their website, Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project said:
The Trevor Project hears from young people every day about their experiences with rejection at home and school – places where they should feel the safest.
We know that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth from rejecting families are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
We hope Immanuel Christian School will adopt policies of inclusion for LGBTQ young people that make them feel safe, accepted, and loved.
The organisations add that they hope at least one copy of the book is in each of its classrooms and libraries to create an 'inclusive environment for all students.'
Luke Hartman, a gay man and a graduate of the Immanuel Christian school says he supports The Trevor Project's initiative and hopes it can bring about a chance in the institution.
As an alumnus of Immanuel Christian School, I am a living example that intolerance, both in policy and rhetoric, are harmful to the mental wellness and development of LGBTQ students, who are desperately looking for ways to fit in,
The silent and spoken messages of rejection that are constantly felt by LGBTQ students directly impact the relationship they have with their faith, education, and relationships with family and friends — ultimately resulting in a feeling of being less than when compared to their straight and cisgender peers.
However, Pence has tried to hit back at the critics. In an email to the New York Times, her communications director, Kara Brooks said:
Mrs. Pence has returned to the school where she previously taught for 12 years. It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack.