Reporters seem to relish any “controversy” involving Vice President Mike Pence. When that controversy comes on a Christian college campus, the media is only too eager to seize upon any fissures between the vice president and the students that he is asked to address. Sadly, when college professors egg the debate on, they place the religious liberty of future Mike and Karen Pences in great jeopardy.
First, they mocked the vice president for what is now called, “the Pence rule,” but those of a certain generation simply knew as “the Billy Graham rule.” Then, it was Karen Pence’s turn for criticism. Her work, while the second lady of the United States, for a private Christian school that requires its employees to adhere to baseline Christian beliefs and behavior, was too much for the cultural elite.
Shocked — shocked, I tell you — that a Christian school would require Christian employees who inculcate Christian doctrine to Christian students at the request of Christian parents to also personally model Christian behavior, the online equivalent of torches and pitchforks descended upon Karen Pence demanding her resignation and mocking her religion.
Then there is the intolerance on display for commencement addresses involving the vice president. This week the eyes of the nation turned to, my alma mater, Taylor University as it welcomed Vice President Pence to speak at commencement. Up front, I confess certain pride in my alma mater and its president, Lowell Haines, for inviting Vice President Pence. As a small, Christian liberal arts college tucked away in a quiet cornfield in Indiana, it is a high honor to welcome the sitting vice president to campus.
But several alumni, a few faculty, and a group of students felt otherwise. The invitation of Mike Pence allowed those with a political axe to grind against the university to sharpen their axe. Pence provided cover to try again to push the university off of its 173-year foundation of creating servant leaders who follow the principles of a millennia-old Christian faith.
The noise of students grinding their axe and those walking out before Pence spoke did not bother me nearly as much as did reports that current faculty turned the whetstone and organized the protests.
Evidently, a handful of faculty actively encouraged the controversy — even printed protest stickers graduates wore on their gowns and joined in the walkout. They demand the university evolve, but the faith that has motivated the university since 1846 says it cannot.
For his part, Pence was gracious and encouraging, shaking every graduate’s hand that extended it to him and smiling warmly at those few who refused.
As he concluded his remarks to the class of 2019, he said, “So just know, as you strengthen the foundation of faith in your life; as you carry that faith from here, in service to your fellow Americans, you will be strengthening the foundation of America itself.”
One certainly hopes so. But, what if a member of the Taylor University class of 2019 is tomorrow’s Mike or Karen Pence?
We are yet to represent a graduate of Taylor University at First Liberty Institute, but that is only a matter of time. Some of our past clients could very easily have been Taylor graduates.
For instance, an alum newly graduated with a pre-med degree could easily be a future Dr. Eric Walsh, fired from his job in public health because of sermons he preached on Sundays as a lay minister. Today’s graduate in journalism could be tomorrow’s Bob Eschliman, a small-town newspaper editor fired for writing about the Bible on his personal blog. It is easy to see how a graduating social work major could face the loss of her job just like Alexia Palma did when she objected to teaching about abortion as part of a new mother’s class.
In short, the example these professors and alumni have set for their students in condemning the vice president leads to a future devoid of the religious diversity that makes the United States of America so great. For the sake of the future of religious liberty, that cannot be.
That commitment to orthodox Christianity, the free exercise of religion, and a respectful religious diversity are what the majority of the Taylor graduates, faculty, and alumni stood for at Saturday’s commencement. They deserve our commendation for their respect for the day, the speaker, and their colleagues.
Taylor University should remain today as it was in the days of its founding: Committed to integrating the Christian faith with a rigorous academic offering. For the sake of that faith — and the freedom of its students and alumni to freely exercise it — that commitment must remain unshaken.