Greeted by an honorary degree and chants of “U-S-A!” Vice President Mike Pence warned a crowd of 8,000 graduates at Liberty University during the evangelical school’s commencement on Saturday to prepare to be ridiculed for their faith after graduation.
Pence told students to “be ready” for the “ridicule” and “opposition” from the media and “Hollywood liberals” that will inevitably come when they’re out in the real world, while also touting the work the Trump administration has done to “protect religious liberty.”
“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” he said. “As you go about your daily life, just be ready because you’re going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith, you’re going to be asked to endorse them. You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture. … Decide here and now that you’re going to stand firm,” Pence said. “You’ll always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have, and you’ll do so with gentleness and respect.”
Pence, a longtime evangelical Christian spoke to a friendly crowd at Liberty University, a Christian university in Virginia, whose president, Jerry Falwell Jr., is an ardent Trump supporter with roots in Trump’s inner circle. It was recently reported that Falwell asked former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to destroy some racy photos of him that were being used as blackmail. While there’s no evidence the two events were correlated, Falwell later endorsed Trump for president, despite hosting Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential announcement at Liberty.
Pence has been criticized by left-leaning evangelicals in the past for using his faith as a political cudgel and a mask for discriminatory policy, specifically against LGBT people.
In his speech, Pence even mentioned the backlash he received when his wife Karen Pence took up her former teaching gig at a local private school, which discriminates against LGBT students and parents.