Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence
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Second Lady Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, announced this week that she would return to teaching art at a conservative bible school

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January 16, 2019 04:40 PM

Second Lady Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, announced this week that she would return to teaching art at a conservative bible school in the Washington, D.C., area.

Almost immediately reporters noted the school, Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, requires that employees agree to a broad set of behavioral guidelines that explicitly discriminate against gay and transgender people.

Among other things the school’s employee applications asks applicants to affirm that marriage is “the uniting of one man and one woman” and that they will “maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct” which precludes “homosexual or lesbian sexual activity” and “transgender identity.”

Potential employees are also required to sign that they are born-again Christians.

In response, a spokeswoman for Pence described the controversy as ridiculous.

“It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack,” Kara Brooks told PEOPLE.

She did not provide further comment, such as whether Pence signed the behavioral guidelines in the application.

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Immanuel Christian School also did not respond to a request for comment.

The language in the school’s application form was first reported by the Huffington Post.

According to NBC News, Immanuel Christian also advises parents that it can decline to admit students — or kick out enrolled students — 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.”

Among the banned behaviors? Being gay.

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Pence previously worked at the school for 12 years. Her daughter Charlotte Pence attended as a child, according to the school’s website.

“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, according to NBC. She previously stopped teaching at Immanuel Christian, when her husband left Congress to become governor of Indiana.

“I have missed teaching art, and it’s great to return to the school where I taught art for twelve years,” Pence continued.

The vice president, a conservative Christian, has a history of anti-gay politics. His wife’s move drew widespread criticism from the LGBTQ community and its allies.

Eliza Byard, the head of GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ students, told NBC that “the prohibitions at this school take the position that not only are you not allowed to be yourself, but you’re not allowed to express support for LGBTQ people.”

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Byard continued: “I do hope that as an elementary school teacher, [Pence] will have some measure of compassion for students in that school that will be suffering as a result of these policies and did not choose to enter that school by their own choice.”

“Karen Pence is teaching at a school that bans gay employees and kids,” one user tweeted. “Really makes you miss Dr. Jill Biden, also an educator, who used her Second Lady role to advocate for safe schools for LGBTQ students.”

The Human Rights Campaign tweeted on Wednesday: “The Pences never seem to miss an opportunity to show their public service only extends to some.”

• With reporting by ADAM CARLSON

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