CNN Anchor Asks: Does It Matter That Taxpayers Pay for Karen Pence's Security When She Teaches at Christian School?

January 18, 2019

CNN anchor John King asked guests on his show "Inside Politics" on Friday whether it matters that taxpayers are paying for Second Lady Karen Pence's security if she's teaching at a school that advocates for "biblical family values."

"Does it matter all taxpayers pay for her housing? All taxpayers pay for her Secret Service protection? It's not her fault she needs protection, this is the world we live in. But all taxpayers subsidize her life. Does it matter?" King asked.

"So you mean does her First Amendment freedoms get somehow curtailed because taxpayers pay for her accommodations and security? I don't know that a lot of people would sign on to that," reporter Oliver Knox said.

Pence has come under criticism for announcing that she would go back to teaching elementary art two days a week at Immanuel Christian School in northern Virginia.

"I am excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do, which is to teach art to elementary students," Pence said in a statement. "I have missed teaching art, and it's great to return to the school where I taught art for 12 years."

Criticism of Pence's decision to teach at the school because the school advocates "biblical family values" and believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. The school has a "parent agreement," in which the school states it reserves the right to refuse admission if the applicant or the applicants' parent or guardian not abiding by their standards of conduct:

I understand the biblical role of Immanuel Christian School is to partner with families to encourage students to be imitators of Christ. This necessarily involves the school’s understanding and belief regarding biblical morality and standards of conduct. I understand that the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes, but is not limited to contumacious behavior, divisive conduct, and participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity, promoting such practices, or being unable to support the moral principles of the school.

Vice President Mike Pence defended his wife and Christian education in general.

"My wife and I have been in the public eye for quite a while. We’re used to the criticism," Pence said. "But I have to tell you, to see major news organizations attacking Christian education, is deeply offensive to us."

"We have a rich tradition in America of Christian education and, frankly, religious education broadly defined. We celebrate it. The freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution prohibits a religious test for holding a public office and so we’ll let the other critics roll off our back, but this criticism of Christian education in America should stop," Pence added.

Knox said that this was criticism of the Pence family and not criticism of Christian education.

"This is criticism of the Pences doing this, it's not a blanket criticism of Christian education," Knox said.

"Everything is fair debate. We live in a democracy," King concluded.

For Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian, the Pences created a political problem by "making a play at a very slim subsection" of Americans with Karen's choice to teach art at a Christian school.

"There's even some people who are proponents of Christian education who would say, 'Yeah but not this kind.' So they are making a play at a very slim subsection of the population that they count as part of their base but potentially offending a whole bunch of other people," Demirjian said.

"They've been backed by the Evangelical community, that is who they view as their base," added the AP's Julie Pace, saying they might be "a little naive" for not expecting backlash against them for being Evangelical Christians.

Published under: CNN , John King , Mike Pence