As we’ve posted about on this site already, in accordance with what evangelicals call “The Billy Graham Rule,” Vice President Mike Pence refuses to eat (or otherwise meet alone) with any woman who is not his wife.
The rule, famously articulated by the evangelical minister Billy Graham, is basically a guideline that says men and women should not meet alone, whether in offices, or cars, or other places in order to avoid illicit temptations or appearances of impropriety. It’s been adopted by other evangelical pastors and leaders (a history of its origin is here): The late founder of the evangelical university where I work was known for saying that he’d pass by a female member of his church walking in the rain if he were alone in his car to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Knowing the reputation of conservative politicians for finding themselves in the center of sex scandals, it might be understandable if that really were the main reason for Pence’s practice. But the roots of this “rule” are much more sexist, not to mention hypocritical.
The “Billy Graham Rule” not-so-subtly implies that all women are temptresses looking to seduce men at any chance they get, but it’s also incredibly offensive to men as well, implying that they are completely incapable of controlling their impulses. Both sexes deserve better treatment than that. And even if there is an attraction between colleagues or co-workers, mature adults know how to set those feelings aside in order to maintain professionalism and do their jobs accordingly.
Popular Christian voices such as Rachel Held Evans have noted that not even Jesus himself followed the Billy Graham Rule: He met with the adulterous woman at the well by himself, when any respectable Jew at that time wouldn’t have been caught dead being seen with someone so morally tainted. Not only that, he allowed Mary Magdalene to put perfume on his feet and dry them with her hair. (Talk about scandalous.)
What Would Jesus Do? Not what Mike Pence is doing now.
Speaking of which, what makes his observance of the Billy Graham Rule so much more baffling is that he’s Vice President to arguably the most sexually immoral President in history — the one who bragged about sexually assaulting women. How do you pretend to respect women by avoiding them while supporting a man known for demeaning them?
The fact that Pence advanced so far in his political career without having to work one-on-one with women speaks volumes about the level of gender inequality in this country.