Second lady Karen Pence announced on Tuesday that she would return to teaching art at a northern Virginia elementary school that explicitly bars its employees from engaging in or condoning "homosexual or lesbian sexual activity" and "transgender identity."
"I understand that the term 'marriage' has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman," the passage states."Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: 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, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law."
In a parent agreement posted on the school's website, it states that Immanuel Christian School reserves the right to "refuse admission" or "discontinue enrollment" of a student if "the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches." The prohibited conduct and activities include "sexual immorality," "homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity."
In this "biblical morality" section, the parent agreement cites Leviticus 20:13, a bible passage that states, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Pence previously worked at Immanuel Christian School for 12 years when then-Congressman Mike Pence served in Washington. Her office announced that she would teach twice a week until May.
"I am excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do, which is to teach art to elementary students," Pence, who taught for 25 years before becoming first lady of Indiana in 2013, said in a statement. "I have missed teaching art, and it's great to return to the school where I taught art for twelve years."
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Second Lady Karen Pence
Second Lady Karen Pence
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When asked by NBC News about the northern Virginia school's policies regarding LGBTQ people, Pence's communications director stated, "It's absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school's religious beliefs, are under attack."
Pence's office did not answer multiple questions about the second lady's beliefs regarding employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and whether she believes homosexual activity and transgender identity constitute "moral misconduct."
Eliza Byard, executive director of LGBTQ youth advocacy group GLSEN, called Pence's decision to return to a school with restrictive policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity — especially while in a highly public role — "deeply disturbing."
"The prohibitions at this school," Byard said, "take the position that not only are you not allowed to be yourself, but you're not allowed to express support for LGBTQ people."
"I do hope that as an elementary school teacher," she added, Pence "will have some measure of compassion for students in that school that will be suffering as a result of these policies and did not choose to enter that school by their own choice."