News media recently attacked second lady Karen Pence for teaching art at a Christian school that requires fidelity to Christian sexual mores from students and staff. Now a progressive private school that used to play athletic games against Pence’s Immanuel Christian School is refusing to play against them at their facility, on grounds that playing basketball at a Christian school makes children “unsafe.” Yes, really.
Rod Dreher quotes an all-school email from Sheridan School Head Jessica Donovan:
Since the majority of students wanted to play, we were initially planning to go to [Immanuel Christian School] with the student-athletes wearing a statement of support (such as rainbow socks or warm-up jerseys). As we talked more, we understood that some students did not feel safe entering a school that bans LGBTQ parents, students or even families that support LGBTQ rights. Forcing our children to choose between an environment in which they feel unsafe or staying home was not an option. So we decided that we would invite ICS to play all of the games at Sheridan. Since ICS declined our offer to host, we will only play our home games and will not go to ICS to play.
When Immanuel kids come to play at Sheridan, Donovan said, her students plan to antagonize the Christian children by plastering LGBT images across their clothing and waving LGBT-celebratory signs during games.
Donovan made a point to cite some Christian schools’ departure from orthodox Christian teaching to cover this obvious display of anti-Christian bigotry: “We shared that people who believe differently from us do not deserve disrespect, and the best way to engage with others is through respect and dialogue. We were clear to separate the ideals of Christianity with the policies of this particular school, as we play many Christian schools that support LGBTQ rights.”
How is it respectful to shame Christian children for the beliefs their families and churches hold? Would Sheridan students ever wear rainbow socks and wave LGBT placards while playing a Muslim or Jewish school and call that “respect and dialogue”? How can one expect children to feel respect when they are not invited to express their views, but made into totems to be publicly shamed simply for their religious beliefs? How is it respectful to create an obviously hostile playing environment for an opposing team?
This is disrespect, hostility, and religious bigotry masquerading under the opposite banner. It is also not an isolated incident. The athletic accreditation bodies for both college and K-12 schools have begun to indicate to Christian schools they’d better abandon their faith or lose their ability to play sports with other institutions.
The NCAA is subject to an internal and external pressure campaign over this issue. States across the nation have begun to threaten Christian schools’ participation in athletic conferences, particularly over transgender athletes.
It’s not just sports, either, it’s academic accreditation and funding on the line, all for simply attempting to maintain their historic Christian identity: “In Prinsburg, Minn., Central Minnesota Christian School, a CSI member, receives federal funds for its hot lunch and Title I programs. Superintendent Pete Van Der Puy said nothing has happened yet, but the school might have to prepare to lose federal funding to stand on its religious beliefs about gender,” reported World Magazine in 2016.
As preferences for LGBT people increasingly become enshrined in laws and regulations, with even Republican politicians like Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb misguidedly leading the charge, expect religious discrimination like this to grow. What an irony that the same kind of law Mike Pence put into place as a Republican governor of Indiana amps up discrimination like this against his own wife’s religious employer.