Faculty and members of Taylor University's 2019 graduating class took a stand at the school's commencement ceremony Saturday, walking out minutes before Vice President Mike Pence gave his address.
Vice President and former Indiana governor Mike Pence may have been expecting a warm welcome from the nearly 500 graduating students he addressed on Saturday, and for the most part that's what he received.
But minutes before Pence took the stage to address the crowd at the Christian university a silent majority rose from their seats and quietly walked out in protest.
Laura Rathburn who wore a rainbow colored graduation cap during the ceremony with the message "Ally Visible For Those Who Can't Be," said:"I think his presence makes it difficult for everyone at Taylor to feel welcomed."
The protest was arranged in the days leading up to the Vice President's address by those who felt that despite being an evangelical Christian, Pence did not represent Christian values—referring to Pence's frequent anti-LGBTQ stance on issues like same sex marriage, transgender rights and his support of the controversial conversion therapy.
@VP Mike Pence is speaking @tayloru for the graduation commencement where he was just met with an organized student… https://t.co/3gTTdBnLlW— Adam🌈 ⚧️ (@Adam🌈 ⚧️) 1558192644.0
“Students and Faculty Walk Out of @VP Pence's Commencement Address at Taylor University” Small number, but in a for… https://t.co/h6aYWJFwCe— Bill Lamb (@Bill Lamb) 1558213726.0
Sisters Christine Newman-Aumiller and Marilyn Dodd, graduates of Taylor, joined the protest and stood outside the auditorium as Pence gave his commencement address.
The sign held by Dodd read:
"VP Pence does not stand for Christian values"
Before Saturday organizers of the protest arranged a Change.org petition also in protest of the Universities decision to invite Pence to speak.
The petition read:
"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 received over 8000 signatures.
The University received similar criticism online when it announced it had chosen Pence as their speaker.
Taylor University is honored to have Vice President Mike Pence featured as our commencement speaker. Mr. Pence has… https://t.co/aSHLFHZVpT— Taylor University (@Taylor University) 1555003053.0
@tayloru Sounds like the bulk of those receiving your degrees are not honored at all -- they are appalled, as they should be.— Debbie Lemieux (@Debbie Lemieux) 1555605471.0
@tayloru Thanks for the warning.— Demon Deacon (@Demon Deacon) 1556415363.0
@tayloru This is extremely disappointing.— Kyle Holloway (@Kyle Holloway) 1555032102.0
@tayloru https://t.co/HIzbICjOac— Dextrosity (@Dextrosity) 1555466907.0
@tayloru Couldn't get anyone else?— Valerie J. Wood #TeamJustice #Biden-Harris2020🗽🌊 (@Valerie J. Wood #TeamJustice #Biden-Harris2020🗽🌊) 1557016137.0
@tayloru Pence either condones un-Christian behavior or is too much of a coward to condemn it when it's a fellow Re… https://t.co/WCutNEGQdC— Grover Cleveland (@Grover Cleveland) 1555258746.0
The majority of graduating students however remained for Pence's address, giving Pence a standing ovation as he took the stage.
During the commencement Pence challenged the audience to defend religious beliefs, saying it has become:
"acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs."
In the end, the walk out did little to deter Vice President Pence , but the protest was heard loud and clear by those frequently marginalized by Pence and the Trump administration's polices.
I want to commend the students and faculty that took a stand (literally) and walked out. Especially some of my favo… https://t.co/QRdf0DTmm1— Kate B Savoie, MD MS (@Kate B Savoie, MD MS) 1558231818.0