On Saturday, at the commencement for Indiana’s Taylor University, one of America’s oldest evangelical Christian colleges, dozens of students walked out as Vice President Mike Pence was about to speak.
As a music professor led the audience in singing "Be Thou My Vision," the students walked out of the Kesler Student Activities Center. The remaining students responded to the introduction of Pence with a standing ovation, although according to The Daily Mail, “many wore stickers on their caps saying ‘We are Taylor too’ to protest against the Trump administration."
The Indy Star reported that during his speech, Pence stated:
If what you’ve seen and heard and learned in this place has also taken hold in your hearts, I want to encourage you to go from here, and live it out, and share it, and put feet on your faith as you carry and minister over the course of your lives. Because America needs men and women of integrity and faith now more than ever.
You know, the truth is that we live in a time when religious belief is under assault. We’ve seen unspeakable acts of violence against religious communities. Synagogues in Pennsylvania and California. Mosques in New Zealand. Churches in Sri Lanka. And three historically black churches burned to the ground in Louisiana.
And on a much lesser scale, but more prevalent, we see a change in our culture as well. You know, throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian — but things are different now. Lately, it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs.So as you prepare to leave this place and build your life on the Christ-centered, world-engaging foundation poured here at Taylor University, be prepared to stand up …
And know also that freedom of religion is enshrined not just in the Constitution, but in the hearts of every American. And I promise you: We will always stand up for the freedom of religion and for the right of every American to live, to learn, to worship according to the dictates of your conscience. That’s a promise.
The Indy Star reported:
Some critics told IndyStar prior to the graduation day that they would not be opposed to the one-term Indiana governor speaking at the school under different circumstances. Many stressed that their opposition had nothing to do with Pence being a Christian, per se. Rather, they said, it was the university's lack of faculty or student input, concerns that his presence endorses a specific political or religious view or the matter of Pence's affiliation with President Donald Trump, who some say doesn't represent the Christian values central to the university's mission.
Taylor University was founded in 1846. Roughly 2,600 students attend the university. In 2006 the university was struck with tragedy when a vanload of Taylor students and Creative Dining Services staff members was hit by a semitrailer rig; four students and a CDS staff member were killed, and multiple others sustained serious injuries.