Mike Pence Refuses to Defend Women Pastors in Southern Baptist Churches

Chuck Burton/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Former Vice President Mike Pence said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that “Women pastors have had a big impact” on his family—but refused to say any more in their defense as Southern Baptist churches have recently moved to expel churches that include women in church leadership. 

WATCH: Fmr. VP @Mike_Pence says women ministers “had a big impact” on his family but dodges on whether he supports expelling Southern Baptist churches over women pastors.
“I support the right of any faith to guide their policies according to the dictates of their conscience.” pic.twitter.com/kWU8LJNySQ
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) June 18, 2023

This week, Southern Baptists voted to expel five churches that had “a female functioning in the office of pastor,” during the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans. The New York Times reports that there may be up to 2,000 women acting as Southern Baptist pastors and that though most Southern Baptists are white, “Black women are heavily represented as pastors among the churches that have female head pastors.”
On Sunday, Pence, who announced this month that he is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, also refused to say whether he’d feel comfortable attending a church that blocked women from leadership positions. He has otherwise been plenty comfortable this year at events held by controversial church leaders. As my colleague Stephanie Mencimer reported in January, Pence appeared at events with the evangelical minister John Hagee, who has asserted that gay people caused Hurricane Katrina, as well as the Baptist Robert Jeffress, who has said that “homosexuality is a perversion.” As Mencimer reports, both Hagee and Jeffrees have been considered extreme even by other Republican leaders.
But we shouldn’t be surprised by Pence’s hesitance to support women in leadership. Pence has a long history of treating women as secondary citizens. In 2002, he told the Hill that he would never dine alone with a woman who isn’t his wife, and this is the man who thought the moral of Disney’s Mulan was that “women in the military, bad idea.” But his attitudes towards the rights of women are evident not just in his media comments but also in his policy priorities. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed every anti-abortion bill he could—including one in 2016 that mandated miscarried or aborted fetuses receive funerary services such as burial or cremation. That bill was blocked by a federal judge, but Pence has since made it clear that he will not rest until abortion is outlawed in every state.