Is Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., trying to establish a religious test for serving in the U.S. government? Critics say yes and have even called on Sanders to resign over his unconstitutional comments.
At the very least, Sanders’ grilling of Russell Vought, nominee for deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, during a June 6 Senate confirmation hearing revealed his ignorance and intolerance of basic Christian doctrine. Vought wrote a January 2016 article defending his alma mater, Wheaton College, for dismissing a professor for her comments about Christianity and Islam. Sanders, angered by Vought’s Biblically orthodox statements—in his article and at the hearing—said he would not vote for the nominee.
“I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about,” Sanders declared.
Vought wrote the article during the furor over Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College who said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. A Hawkins defender wrote that anyone with a “deficient (e.g., nontrinitarian) theology” can still be in a relationship with the God of the Bible.
In response, Vought noted Muslims have a bigger problem than deficient theology: “They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”
Sanders read the statement to Vought during his confirmation hearing. Clearly perturbed by Biblical orthodoxy, Sanders asked him, “Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?”
“Absolutely not,” Vought responded.
Sanders, who is ethnically Jewish but has not publicly ascribed to any faith, repeatedly and angrily asked Vought if he believed Muslims stood condemned. What about Jews? All non-Christians?
“As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals …”
Sanders cut him off before he could finish and then pronounced his own condemnation.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., followed Sanders in addressing Vought but used his opening comments to take Sanders to task.
“To my colleagues on the Senate committee,” Gardner said. “I hope that we are not questioning the faith of others and how they interpret their faith to themselves.”
Critics, conservative and liberal, said Sanders crossed a line drawn by Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids imposing a religious test for holding office.
Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, tweeted, “Does our national government now think that all non-Universalists should be banned from holding office because this country is not ‘for us’?”
— by Bonnie Pritchett