Wisconsin Lutheran College cancels Pence commencement speech after Blake shooting

Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee has cancelled their original plan to have Vice President Pence deliver a commencement address this weekend amid unrest in Kenosha over the shooting of Jacob Blake.

The private college said “after further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha” they have decided to not have Pence deliver the planned address.

Rev. Mark Jeske, of St. Marcus Lutheran Church will speak instead.

The college is located roughly 40 miles from Kenosha, where unrest, looting, riots, and arson have been taking place.

More than 250 students and alumni signed a letter speaking out against Pence’s appearance that was posted on Medium.

This is the text of the letter:

To Wisconsin Lutheran College and Vice President Pence,

We renounce the decision to invite Vice President Pence to speak at the Class of 2020 Commencement on Saturday, August 29, 2020. We are concerned about the college’s blatantly inappropriate decision to invite the vice president to speak for this monumental event for the Class of 2020. Not only is the invitation disrespectful, but also the remarks provided by the college fail to recognize the reality of the decision.

WLC has insisted that this event, “is not in any way meant to be viewed as a political event, as it cannot be, and is not a political statement.” They claim the decision was apolitical. However, the mere invitation of a Vice President of an incredibly divisive and controversial ticket to speak in a swing state months before an election is ignorant and deceptive. Speaking to young adults months before an election is a political move and not one that WLC can decide is apolitical.

Praising Vice President Pence for his advocacy, “for the freedom of religious expression so that ministries like our churches and Wisconsin Lutheran College can flourish within a pluralistic society,” is problematic. This administration has been divisive and degrading. As a governor and now as the vice president, Mike Pence has failed to promote policies that reflect Christian values. The WLC administration should recognize, instead of ignoring, his problematic policies. WLC cannot and should not thrive from putting love on hold. Love must always come first. We invite you to rethink your priorities.

WLC cannot reasonably suggest that this is not an endorsement of any political party or candidate(s). Throughout the years, WLC continues to invite people that consistently support conservative and Republican politics, those who often claim Christian values in their rhetoric, but don’t always display them in their policies. Vice President Pence is no exception. It seems the WLC administration is not currently pushing an agenda of love for their neighbors.

Lastly, we would like to express our empathy and grief for the Class of 2020. We celebrate your achievements and congratulate you on your graduation. Your commencement ceremony should not have been infected by toxic politics. You didn’t ask for this, and you should not have needed to ask for this not to happen. Controversial political figures need to stay out of our academic celebrations. Please continue to shine in your future endeavors. We are excited for you and continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers.