Trump Praises Karen Pence while Controversy Over her
Updated 9:27 PM ET, Thu February 7, 2019
By Michael D'Antonio, CNN
Michael D'Antonio is the author of the book "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success" and co-author with Peter Eisner of "The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence." The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author's.
The controversy began when the association (American Art therapy Association) welcomed Karen Pence as an advocate even though her religious ethic is opposed to the profession's own code. "Our ethics call for us to be nondiscriminatory to the ultimate degree," art therapist and psychologist Cathy Malchiodi, Ph.D., told me.
(CNN)In the upside-down logic of conservative religious politics, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence framed a law that permitted discrimination to be about "freedom" and sparked such outrage -- "Fix this now" demanded Indiana's leading paper -- that he had to reverse it. Now it's Karen Pence, the vice president's wife, who's stirring controversy by associating herself with bigoted ideas. She's getting help in this regard from President Trump.
A teacher who embraced art therapy as a cause when she became second lady, Pence recently went to work at Immanuel Christian school in Virginia, a school at which she previously taught for 12 years while her husband was serving in Congress and where job applicants are asked to disavow marriage equality for gay adults and transgender identity is treated as "moral misconduct."
Trump praises Karen Pence at National Prayer Breakfast
On Thursday the President used his remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast to praise her work at the school. "She is a Marine Corps mom, a tremendous woman, a proud supporter of military families and she just recently went back to teaching art classes at a Christian school. ... Thank you, Karen," he said. His statement came the day after the American Art Therapy Association criticized Pence for the very same thing.
For the President, and the Pences, Immanuel Christian School stands as a positive example of sectarian education. "We celebrate it," said the vice president. "The freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States." So it is. But when religion is weaponized to express hostility on the basis of sexual identity, it leads to predictable consequences.
In this case, Karen Pence has created division in a field where professionals who would rather be helping others have been in conflict among themselves over the second lady's bigoted views. The Pences clearly don't understand the polarizing nature of the issue: "It's absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school's religious beliefs, are under attack," said a spokeswoman for Pence.
The controversy began when the association welcomed Karen Pence as an advocate even though her religious ethic is opposed to the profession's own code. "Our ethics call for us to be nondiscriminatory to the ultimate degree," art therapist and psychologist Cathy Malchiodi, Ph.D., told me.
The public is at odds with Karen Pence's new school's policy on homosexuality
Widely regarded as a giant in the field, Malchiodi helped found Art Therapists for Human Rights in response to Karen Pence's decision to put art therapy at the top of her agenda and the American Art Therapy Association's initial decision to work with her. "We're for human rights first," she said about her profession, "so it's odd that she would be embraced."
The oddness exists on many levels. First may be the fact that Karen Pence is not an art therapist. She is an art teacher, but without special training and ongoing education, art teachers are no more qualified to practice therapy than a bartender. Second, by claiming art therapy as a cause, she has divided a profession that has labored for decades to gain recognition and respect.
Story continues on: