Bernie Sanders Just Applied a Religious Test to a Christian Nominee for Public Office

Although the US Constitution prohibits a religious test as a qualifier for public office, Bernie Sanders seemed to do just that in a recent confirmation hearing.

By Nancy Flory Published on June 8, 2017

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the use of a “religious test” for any office or public trust. But Bernie Sanders got very close to doing just on Wednesday. It was during the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

During Russell Vought’s confirmation hearing, Sanders took issue with an article Vought wrote for conservative website The Resurgent in January 2016, reported The Atlantic. In his article, Vought defended a Christian school that had fired a professor for expressing solidarity with Muslims. Sanders objected to Vought’s statement in the article: “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”

Sanders objected. “In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” Sanders told the committee at the hearing. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”

Later Sanders asked Vought, “Do you believe that statement is Islamophobic?” “Absolutely not, Senator,” said Vought. “I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith.”

Sanders continued to berate and interrupt Vought. “I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America, I really don’t know, probably a couple million. Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?” Vought replied that he was a Christian, but Sanders quickly cut him off. “I understand you are a Christian. But this country is made up of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”

Vought tried to explain the concept of imago dei to Sanders. “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 again and asked Vought if his comments were respectful of other religions. Vought reminded Sanders that the article he wrote was as a Christian about a Christian university, which “has a statement of faith that speaks clearly with regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.”

In response, Sanders told the committee: “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention responded to Sanders’ religious test in the hearing.

Senator Sanders’ comments are breathtakingly audacious and shockingly ignorant — both of the Constitution and of basic Christian doctrine. Even if one were to excuse Senator Sanders for not realizing that all Christians of every age have insisted that faith in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to salvation, it is inconceivable that Senator Sanders would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office in defiance of the United States Constitution. No religious test shall ever be required of those seeking public office. While no one expects Senator Sanders to be a theologian, we should expect far more from an elected official who has taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

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