Giving someone a book can be a gift or, in the case of The Trevor Project, a way to send a message. On Thursday, the LGBTQ advocacy group sent 100 copies of a parody book to the school where Karen Pence teaches. The work of fiction is about Vice President Mike Pence's family bunny, Marlon Bundo, who is portrayed as gay in the book.
The Huffington Post reported that the copies are meant to respond to The Immanuel Christian School's requirement for parents and employees to sign a statement of faith against "homosexual or lesbian" sexuality and "transgender activity."
The Trevor Project stated that it sent the copies to the school in Springfield, Virginia, encouraging it to accept students and employees regardless of their sexual orientation. The book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, was published in 2018 by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver. It features the adventures of a fictional gay rabbit toting a multi-colored bow-tie.
According to the Associated Press, Karen's office announced that she would teach at the K-8 school twice a week through May. The school's statement of faith, which has sparked outrage among some people, also defines marriage as that between a man and woman only. The Chicago Tribune, however, reported that it is unclear if Karen signed the statement of faith.
LGBTQ advocates have criticized the reports of the second lady teaching at Immanuel Christian School, where she had previously taught while her husband was in Congress. (Karen is a teacher by profession.)
The CEO of the Trevor Project, Amit Paley, issued a statement about the protest. "We know that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth from rejecting families are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers," Paley said. "We hope Immanuel Christian School will adopt policies of inclusion for LGBTQ young people that make them feel safe, accepted, and loved."
Pence's views on the LGBTQ community has also been a subject of widespread controversy. In 2004, while he was serving in Congress, Pence voted for and co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
So far, Karen's spokeswoman, Kara Brooks, has lambasted the criticism against the second lady for her job at the Immanuel Christian School. In a statement to the Huffington Post, Brooks said, "It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack."
Karen herself has only expressed enthusiasm about returning to the Immanuel Christian School to teach art. In a statement to the USA Today on Tuesday, the second lady said, "I am excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do. I have missed teaching art."
However, activists have urged the Immanuel Christian School to reconsider its stance on the LGBTQ community. Human Rights Campaign's senior vice president of policy affairs, JoDee Winterhof, said to the Huffington Post, "Why not teach at a school that welcomes everyone, instead of choosing one that won’t serve LGBTQ kids, kids of LGBTQ parents? The Pences never seem to miss an opportunity to show their public service only extends to some."