by Eric Jayne
We don't need to dig deep or look far into the past to understand how truly dangerous Pence can be as a policymaker. During his run for congress in 2000, Pence called for federal funding of AIDS and HIV treatment programs to be tied to conversion therapy. "Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior", Pence wrote on his campaign webpage.
Pence has also been passionate about shutting down Planned Parenthood throughout his political career. In 2011 when the nation was facing a government shutdown over the federal budget, Pence admitted that he would work toward shutting down the federal government if it meant he could prevent patients from accessing services at Planned Parenthood. He explained his anti-Planned Parenthood crusade further during October's vice presidential debate. "I would tell you that for me the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief...where God says 'before you were formed in the womb, I knew you'", Pence said referring to Jeremiah 1:5 in the Old Testament.
In 2015 Pence infamously signed the "Religious Freedom Act" into law as governor of Indiana. This law expanded religious privilege by allowing Christians to freely act upon their bible-based prejudices. It didn't take long before some conservative Christian business owners refused to serve LGBT people. This was clearly displayed when an Indiana pizza restaurant owner indicated that he would refuse to cater a same-sex wedding. This kind of "religious freedom" is how Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, justified her refusal to provide marriage certificates to same-sex couples.
The Trump administration will likely feature a cabinet with members who, like Pence, will also appeal to religious teachings for their understanding on healthcare, climate change, scientific research, and the general social welfare of the citizenry. While the Bible might contain interesting stories and some limited and questionable guidance on moral behavior, it's simply an inappropriate source for seeking guidance on resolving complicated issues and governing a pluralistic society that values individual liberty.
While Trump has been elected president, it's Pence who holds the knowledge and skill set for political coordination and turning ideas into law. Trump is the big boss but Pence will undoubtedly be advising and guiding him every step of the way. Much like Trump's chauffer, Pence will be at the steering wheel navigating our nation through a system of beliefs that could detour our nation back 2000 years.
Eric Jayne is the former president of Minnesota Atheists, where he still sits on the Board. A contributing editor to Atheist Voices of Minnesota and editor of the Foes of Faith blog, he currently lives and works in the Twin Cities area.