Frustrated by their school’s choice of commencement speaker, dozens of Taylor University graduates and faculty walked out on Vice President Mike Pence in protest at the Christian college’s commencement ceremony Saturday.
The demonstration came after Taylor students started an online petition calling on the school to bar Pence from giving the address, citing concerns that it could be construed as an endorsement of President Donald Trump’s policies. Close to 10,000 people signed the Change.org petition.
“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,” the petition read.
According to The Indianapolis Star, protesting students and faculty quietly stood and walked out of the ceremony just prior to Pence’s introduction.
Laura Rathburn, who decorated her cap with a rainbow and a message that said “Ally Visible For Those Who Can’t Be,” said she was disappointed with Taylor University’s decision to invite Pence.
“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.
Some protesters chose to remain at the ceremony but quietly denounced Pence’s presence by sporting buttons that declared, “I am Taylor Too,” which appeared intended to show that the university houses a multitude of viewpoints and should not be defined by its invitation to Pence.
“I promise you,” Pence told the students during his speech. “We will always stand up for the freedom of religion and the right of every American to live, to learn, and to worship according to the dictates of your conscience.”
Last week, while speaking at a different commencement ceremony, Pence warned Liberty University’s graduating class that they’d be “shunned” for being Christian.
“You’re going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith; you’re going to be asked to endorse them,” he said, encouraging the students to persevere. “You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture. So you need to prepare your minds for action.”