Over 400 alumni from Hanover College penned a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, a 1981 graduate of the southern Indiana school, questioning how he can claim to be a Christian and serve in the Trump administration.
After a courtesy nod to the fact that a fellow graduate of Hanover is now a sitting vice president of the United States, the letter makes it clear the respect stops there:
Our congratulations do not, however, arrive without genuine concerns. We write to you to ask how, as an obviously devout Christian, and after four years of the enlightening liberal arts education we all received at Hanover College, you can participate in the discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and antipathy toward the poor that we see in the actions of the Trump administration.
By the second paragraph, Pence is lectured about receiving the same quality education at Hanover, yet failing to use it to make the world a better place like they’ve done.
And by the third paragraph, the letter was in full attack mode:
At the 2016 GOP Convention, you declared yourself “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” We cannot help but wonder, where “American” is in this list? It seems a fair question, because you are now actively participating in efforts to dismantle health care and other social safety nets for all but the most affluent Americans. Such efforts are in keeping with your record as the governor of Indiana, when you enacted legislation that showed you favored money and corporate gain over the health and well-being of your constituents, especially those less fortunate than you. You ignored an HIV outbreak in Scott County long after it could have been controlled with a needle-exchange program. Your policies relentlessly attacked women’s reproductive rights to the point where women were punished for having miscarriages. Your administration ignored lead and arsenic contamination in the water of East Chicago, a community of predominately people of color and the poor. Furthermore, you signed legislation aimed directly at discriminating against Indiana’s LBGTQ citizens under the guise of religious freedom. Those of us who consider ourselves people of faith cannot understand, much less support, oppressing any of God’s children in the name of Christianity. Discrimination and exclusion are not values espoused by Jesus Christ.
The letter goes on to urge Pence to “oppose those within your administration who have actively courted the support of white supremacists” and asks how he can stand behind the immigration reform and environmental policies of the administration.
Again, they come after his faith, “How is sowing fear and confusion among neighbors a Christian value? Scapegoating others for their differences does not bring glory to God, Mr. Vice President but it just might bring this nation to ruin.”
We hope you remember the lessons learned at Hanover College, including the value of other religious and cultural traditions; the importance of scientific research; and the necessity of an unfettered press, free and open elections, and our nation’s public education system. We are proud that Hanover has shown true leadership as it continues to provide an excellent education while becoming ever more welcoming and inclusive, in accordance with its Christian foundation. We are saddened that so little of the rich undergraduate education that we received at Hanover College is evident in your political career to date, and we hope that you will find the needed courage and commitment to become a leader who governs from a position of informed and rational judgment and true Christian compassion.
In his piece for The Federalist, 2015 Hanover graduate Luke Karnick thoroughly takes apart the screed.
“In the latest display of virtue-signaling by denizens of the nation’s higher-education institutions, more than 500 people associated with Hanover College, including approximately 470 alumni, recently sent a letter to Pence, excoriating him for a variety of sins against modern cultural Marxist sensibilities,” Karnick writes.
“Throughout the letter, these alumni and associates criticize Pence for his perfectly ordinary conservative stances, replaying a variety of tired anti-Trump talking points and even getting the facts and context dead wrong on several political incidents.”
After Karnick clears up the facts, he punched back at his alma mater for abandoning academic freedom:
In ignoring those specific successes and casting vague accusations, the Hanover letter exemplifies the groupthink on contemporary college campuses. Once a hallmark of American higher education, the ability to engage in open discourse and disagree civilly has fallen by the wayside in recent decades, replaced by hate and shaming of those who disagree with the ever-changing shibboleths of Marxist political correctness. The Hanoverians’ attack on Pence is another in a long line of unctuous attempts in the academy and elsewhere to suppress centrist and conservative ideas and eliminate open discourse.
The most disturbing aspect of the letter, however, is the writers’ continual questioning of Pence’s devotion to Christian values. To cast doubt on the sincerity of a person’s religious beliefs because his political views are different from one’s own is not rational argumentation; it is an open suggestion to others to indulge in the discredited religious practice of shunning. A person who cannot separate politics from religion clearly has no understanding of either.
In stark contrast with the letter writers’ imposition of a political test on religious purity, Pence has never said a harsh word about those who have taken over his alma mater and attempted to impose a cultural Marxist agenda on a school founded by and still affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Instead of questioning the vice president’s religious faith, the Hanoverians would do more good by considering the logs in their own eyes and asking any conservatives on the campus how welcome they feel there. In my experience there, these academic leftists have become what they claim to hate most: bullies intent on imposing their will on others and silencing all who disagree.
Also worth noting is that the letter writers did not have the courage to make their names public, instead hiding behind anonymity lest any imperfections of their own lives cast doubt on their qualifications to judge Pence.
Karnick notes that Hanover College “has taken no official stance on Pence other than to say that he has brought positive attention to the school through his achievements.” But at the same time, neither has the school stopped its students or faculty from “steamrolling” a political enemy "instead of expressing pride in the success of a former grad.”