"Christian Blogging Mom" Glennon Doyle Melton has slammed Mike Pence for adhering to the "Billy Graham Rule" - refusing to dine with a woman without his wife present - and accused the Vice President of "perpetuating the patriarchal notion" that women are either "a temptress" or a "liability".
In an op-ed penned for Time Magazine, Melton, the creator of Momastery who recently announced her engagement to soccer champ Abby Wambach, first pointed out that as governor of Indiana, Pence presided over a controversial religious freedom bill that she says "would have allowed discrimination against couples like me and my future wife."
"Pence has had plenty to say about rules that should apply to my marriage, and I think it's fair to examine the ones he applies to his," she writes.
"Pence's rule for his marriage perpetuates religious and political ideologies based on false, dehumanizing ideologies about women that, when espoused by those in power, have manifested disastrous outcomes for all of us," Melton continues. "If Pence cannot eat alone with a woman, it must be because when he sees a woman across a table, she's not an adviser, she's not a teacher, she's not a leader, she's not a constituent - she is only a sexual entity."
As reported, while doing a profile of Indiana's former First Lady, a Washington Post reporter, Ashley Parker, cited a 2002 interview with Pence in The Hill in 2002. In it, he said he never ate alone with a woman other than his wife, Karen. Pence, a devout Catholic, also said he wouldn't attend an event where alcohol would be served without her by his side.
Evangelist Billy Graham followed a similar rule of not traveling, meeting or eating with another woman alone. Thus, the practice is often dubbed "The Billy Graham Rule" and is common among many evangelicals today, says USA Today.
Melton argues that when Pence says he will not eat alone with a woman who is not his wife, he is "perpetuating the patriarchal notion that women are either Mary, Jesus' pure virgin Mother, or Eve, a temptress, a liability."
"For Pence and many evangelical men, all women who are not Marys are Eves, placed peripherally in their lives as temptations to resist," she writes. "This reduces all women to a monolithic sexual identity. To men like Pence, we are not complex, complete, sacred vessels...We are exclusively sexual creatures."
The "Love Wins" author goes on to accuse the VP of sending the country "back to 18th century political ideology" and promotes the idea of "separate spheres" - or the notion that a man's place is in the public sphere, while a woman's God-ordained role is in the private sphere.
"This ideology historically justified women's legal status as dependents until marriage, and stripped women of their legal existence - economic and property rights - after marriage," she writes. "Likewise, the inevitable consequence of Pence's rule is to preserve and pass down men's power to other men."
She concludes: "Jesus himself deliberately sought out women with whom to meet alone, including the most scandalous women of his day. Remember the woman at the well, Vice President? Jesus met with her because that was part of His job on earth. Meeting with women is part of yours too."
Joanna Grossman, of the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law, also criticized Pence for his beliefs - but for a different reason. As reported, she said the "Billy Graham Rule" violates Title VII, which governs workplace discrimination and does not allow employers to treat people differently on the basis of certain protected characteristics, one of which is sex.
As reported, she suggested that the practice described by Pence in that 2002 interview is clearly illegal when practiced by a boss in an employment setting, and deeply damaging to women's employment opportunities.
Meanwhile, Pence's defenders took to Twitter to argue the VP is merely acting prudently in attempting to avoid even the hint of sexual impropriety in adhering to the "Billy Graham Rule".
The "Billy Graham rule" -never be alone with a woman not even in an elevator. I respect Mike Pence for doing his part to guard his marriage," wrote Corryn Mobley.
"Good for Mike Pence. Billy Graham had the same rule. Seemed to work out well for him," added Jim Denison.
Wrote Fr Matthew Schneider: "Billy Graham had even stricter rules than Matt Walsh or Mike Pence: marriage is worth protecting by avoiding certain situations."