A private secular K-8 school in Washington, D.C., was accused of having a double-standard as prominent Christian conservatives have spoken out against its plan to boycott basketball games held at the conservative Christian school where second lady Karen Pence works.
According to a letter obtained by The American Conservative, the Sheridan School in Northwest recently informed parents that the schools’ basketball teams will no longer travel to take on Immanuel Christian School (ICS) in nearby Springfield, Virginia because of the institution’s policies pertaining to LGBT issues.
The Sheridan School decision comes after ICS became the center of a media firestorm last month after it was announced that Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, would begin working there as an elementary art teacher twice a week.
Several mainstream media outlets were quick to point out that ICS asks aspiring teachers to agree in their applications to abide by the school’s traditional beliefs that marriage is a union between one man and one woman and that no sexual activity is to take place outside of biblical marriage.
This policy bars teachers from engaging in acts of homosexuality or premarital sex. Meanwhile, the school’s parent agreement asks parents to "acknowledge the importance of a family culture based on biblical principles and embrace biblical family values such as a healthy marriage between one man and one woman."
The school was accused by commenters of being homophobic and “anti-LGBT” after reports of its policies were publicized nationwide. Because of the media firestorm, leaders at the Sheridan School decided to reevaluate their relationship with ICS.
The two schools play twice a year in boys and girls varsity and junior varsity basketball.
The Sheridan School’s letter told parents that it was only when the news broke about Pence’s job there that they learned of the ICS policies of “prohibiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, parents and teachers. “
“Given our school’s fundamental belief in diversity and inclusion as expressed in our diversity statement, this information, and what to do about it, poses obvious challenges,” the letter written by the school’s head Jessica Donovan reads. “While we have played ICS in the past, we were not aware of its policies, so this new information prompted conversations among the staff and many families.”
The letter explained that the option was presented to Sheridan faculty and students to no longer travel to games at ICS. The other option was to continue traveling to ICS and have the student-athletes make a statement by wearing rainbow colored socks.
However, the letter adds, some students “did not feel safe entering a school that bans LGBTQ parents, students or even families that support LGBTQ rights.”
“Forcing our children to choose between an environment in which they feel unsafe or staying home was not an option,” Donovan wrote. “So we decided that we would invite ICS to play all of the games at Sheridan. Since ICS declined our offer to host, we will only play our home games and will not go to ICS to play.”
According to the Sheridan basketball schedule, the boys varsity and junior varsity basketball teams are scheduled to play at ICS on Feb. 12. Meanwhile, the girls’ teams were scheduled to play at ICS on Jan. 31. It is unclear whether the Sheridan teams will have to forfeit the games they do not show up to play at ICS.
Heritage Foundation senior fellow and author Ryan T. Anderson commented on the Sheridan School’s decision in a comment provided to The Daily Signal.
Ryan, who regularly writes about issues of gay marriage and transgender identity and has written books on the topics, suggested that there seems to be a double-standard in Sheridan’s response to the ICS policies.
“Immanuel Christian wants to be free to operate according to its deepest values — and that means community standards for staff and students that support orthodox Christianity,” Anderson explained. “This is what the Sheridan School objects to. … And so, operating according to its deepest values, Sheridan has decided to exclude cooperation and participation with orthodox Christian schools.”
Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option and a popular conservative columnist, criticized the school’s claim that the move to boycott games at ICS is to protect the safety of the children.
“These Sheridan School people, especially the unctuously self-congratulatory Madame Donovan, don’t want to get Evangelical cooties on them, but they cannot admit their spite for these Evangelicals, so they invent this ridiculous concern for ‘safety,’ Dreher wrote.
“Immanuel has had the policy for years, and Sheridan students and parents have presumably gone to Immanuel for sports contests, and nobody was insulted or assaulted or treated with disrespect. What has changed?
Dreher contends that the Sheridan students are “100 percent safe” at ICS.
“It’s a lie they invented to justify the fact that they think Evangelical Christians are disgusting bigots and should be shunned and stigmatized,” Dreher argued. “I don’t know the rules of the athletic league in question, so I don’t know if Sheridan can get away with this. If they can, there will now be pressure within other schools in the league to shun Immanuel. This is how it will happen, people. They don’t have to pass laws hemming in orthodox Christian schools. They can accomplish a lot simply with social pressure.”