Dozens of students and faculty walked out in protest before Mike Pence’s commencement speech at private Christian school Taylor University’s graduation.
“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,” read a petition on change.org
As Christian Headlines previous reported, thousands of alumni, faculty, staff, and outside voices expressed their disagreement to the private school’s invitation to Mike Pence to speak at their graduation ceremony.
However, a majority of the over 400 graduating students stayed seated during the ceremony, then rose to a standing ovation for the vice president after the planned walkout, according to USA Today.
Pence used the opportunity to encourage and strengthen the graduating class. “Throughout most of our American history it’s been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian, but things are different now,” Pence said. “Lately, it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs.”
He also outlined “the Trump administration’s message on the state of the economy, the nation’s number of job openings and its low unemployment rate,” according to USA Today.
For graduate Laura Rathburn, the day was difficult for her. She decorated the top of her graduation cap with a message that read, “Ally Visible For Those Who Can’t Be.” “I thought it was a really inappropriate decision [to invite Mike Pence.] I think his presence makes it difficult for everyone at Taylor to feel welcomed,” she said.
For some critics, Pence’s religion was not the concern. "For me personally, I think we should identify as Christians first before we have political ties,” graduate Katie Tupper told IndyStar. “That might not be a good choice for everyone, but I think that we struggle a lot at Taylor in trying not to raise our political views.”
News of the petition frustrated some Christian leaders. Franklin Graham posted on Facebook, “For the life of me I don’t understand this. … 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.’ What are these people smoking?”
Pence will continue his commencement speaking schedule next Saturday with the U.S. Army cadets at West Point in New York.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.