On the same day that the first Republican member of Congress called for President Trump’s impeachment, the man who would replace him in that much-anticipated eventuality faced his own rebellion in an ostensibly friendly venue in his home state of Indiana.
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Moments before Vice President Mike Pence was set to walk on stage and deliver the commencement speech at Taylor University, a Christian liberal arts college, dozens of students and faculty got up and exited the graduation ceremony in protest.
The dissident minority of protestors at the non-denominational school strongly felt that it was wildly inappropriate for the school to have invited the partisan right-wing religious zealot to address the graduates at their ceremony.
The logic of their argument was apparent once Pence began his speech in which he repeated the manipulative and paranoid conspiracy theories that posited that Christian beliefs were being persecuted in the United States today because of federal courts’ insistence on the separation of church and state that is enshrined in the Constitution — and because of their insistence that religious beliefs do not entitle Christians with a warped view of biblical messages to ignore the human rights of others, including the LGBTQ community.
“Throughout most of our American history it’s been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian, but things are different now,” Pence told the graduates. “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 a Christ-centered, world-engaging foundation poured here at Taylor University, be prepared to stand up.”
While the majority of graduating students sat though Vice President Pence’s speech, the vocal protestors expressed their disappointment at the university administration’s choice of commencement speakers.
According to The Indianapolis Star, graduate Laura Rathburn decorated her cap with a rainbow and the slogan “Ally Visible For Those Who Can’t Be” in protest and denounced the invitation to Pence as an insult to marginalized LGBTQ students.
“I thought it was a really inappropriate decision. I think his presence makes it difficult for everyone at Taylor to feel welcomed,” she told the Star before the ceremony.
The invitation resulted in numerous online petitions signed by thousands demanding that the school rescind their invitation to the vice president.
“Inviting Vice President Pence to Taylor University and giving him a coveted platform for his political views makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear,” one of the petitions read.
“I knew it was going to be rough because he’s such a large political figure and this administration’s made some very unpopular and sometimes like harmful decision for people,” graduate Jennifer Nelson told The Star. “We have students from all over the world and like even students who have been impacted by some of this administration — not just the presidency but by Pence when he was governor here.”
For his part, Vice President Pence used the speech as a political platform to praise the Trump administration’s track record and policies as providing the graduates with ample economic opportunities
“You picked a great time to graduate from Taylor University. The America that awaits your energies and ambitions is experiencing a new era of optimism and opportunity. You’re beginning your careers at a time of a growing American economy and restored American stature at home and abroad,” Pence claimed as our former Eurpoean allies declined to be associated with the adminstration’s Iranian war-mongering,
In stark contrast to Pence’s rosy picture of the Indiana economy under Trump, local newspapers like The South Bend Tribune have recently run stories with headlines like “‘Wish it wouldn’t hurt us so much.’ Trade war stokes worries for Indiana farmers, manufacturing” that detail the billions of dollars in lost revenue the state has suffered due to Trump’s misguided tariff impositions.
The walkouts at Taylor University aren’t the first time the vice president has faced protests while delivering a commencement speech in his home state. In 2017 students also walked out during Pence’s speech at a graduation ceremony at Notre Dame University.
At least it’s easy to tell which students at these commencements learned independent thinking along with their degrees. They should all be given magna cum laude certifications.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.