Second Lady Karen Pence Lands a Part-Time Job Teaching Art at a Christian School That Bans Gay Teachers

Pence is an experienced educator whose key White House initiative is "Healing with the HeART."

Second Lady Karen Pence. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images.

Karen Pence, wife of US Vice President Mike Pence, is returning to her old workplace at a local Christian school in Virginia as a part-time art teacher. The second lady previously worked at the Immanuel Christian School during her husband’s tenure in the House of Representatives between 2001 and 2013.

The Second Lady is an experienced teacher who continued to pursue her career in education at private and public schools when the couple returned to Indianapolis after her husband was elected governor of Indiana in 2013. “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 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.”

The arts are a major part of the curriculum at Immanuel Christian School. “Students learn about famous artists through the centuries and artists currently working around the world,” the school’s official site says. “By exploring ways to express their creativity they are learning about the creativity of our own Creator.”

Screenshot from the website of Immanuel Christian School.

Screenshot from the website of Immanuel Christian School.

The routine statement was released by the Second Lady’s office on Wednesday, announcing that she will teach art at the private school twice a week. However, the news was quickly overshadowed by press reports about the school’s hiring policies, which reportedly include barring gay teachers.

Citing a job application for teachers and support staff, the Washington Post reported that prospective employees at Immanuel Christian School must adhere to a number of conservative Christian pledges including an interpretation of marriage as having only “one meaning,” described as “the uniting of one man and one woman.” The application goes on to list “homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy [and] transgender identity” as violations of “occupational qualifications for employees.”

According to the Post, declarations of faith are not an uncommon requirement for private schools affiliated with a particular religion. The Pences’ evangelical faith has been well documented. Critics argue that the Second Lady’s new job is of a piece with the Trump administration’s hostile stance towards LGBT issues.

During her tenure as second lady, Pence has chosen promoting art therapy as her official White House initiative, spearheading a program called “Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART.” According to the New York Times, she has served on the board of the art therapy program Tracy’s Kids since 2011 and helped raise money to hire two full-time art therapists at the Riley Hospital for Children in her home state.

Pence says she discovered art therapy while being taken on a guided tour of Disneyland by a lobbyist from the Walt Disney Corporation.

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