Dozens of students and faculty members at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana walked out of a graduation ceremony ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement address on Saturday, according to a report.
The Indianapolis Star reports the planned protest came after intense debate over the “appropriateness” of the vice president’s speech before the nondenominational Christian liberal arts school.
A vast majority Taylor’s graduating class stayed in their seats as Pence took the stage. He received a standing ovation following the walk-out.
In his remarks, Pence urged students and faculty to stand tall against increasing hostility against Christians. “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.”
Laura Rathburn, one of the 494 graduating students, protested Pence’s visit by decorating her cap with a rainbow with the message: “Ally Visible For Those Who Can’t Be.”
Thank you for the warm welcome, Indiana! @SecondLady & I are happy to be home in the Hoosier state. Heading to @TaylorU to offer the commencement address to the class of 2019 at 10:30! pic.twitter.com/tQ6v7nIAhk
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 18, 2019
“I thought it was a really inappropriate decision. I think his presence makes it difficult for everyone at Taylor to feel welcomed,” the student told the Indianapolis Star before Pence took the stage.
Thousands signed numerous Change.org petitions protesting Pence’s address and demanding the university replace the vice president with another speaker.
“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,” wrote one signee.
Pence shared several photos to Twitter ahead of his address before Taylor University, thanking them for a “warm welcome.”
He is the first American executive branch official to address at the small Christian school of about 2,500, noted the Indianapolis Star.
In 2017, students walked out on Pence’s commencement speech at Notre Dame University’s graduation ceremony.