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.

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • m-nj

    This guy was being nominated to run OMB… basically a glorified accountant! Is there any reasonably way his religious beliefs have any impact on his abilities to “run the numbers”? NO. Except of course a key christian principle is to be honest!

    • A. Castellitto

      I know, seriously!

    • Andrew Mason

      Perhaps honesty IS the problem? Some individuals and organisations are selective about what numbers are to be arrived at. If you’re honest that can be a problem.

      • Fiona

        If honesty was a problem, how do you explain Trump, Clinton, and all the other liars?

      • Fiona

        Maybe, especially since the biggest liar of all won, who contradicts himself and denies what he has said on record on a daily basis. But, it’s that liar who picked Vought, and all reports say Trump demands loyalty and requires that his ‘followers’ do what Trump says, not what Jesus said.

    • Fiona

      Vought supported FIRING someone for posting a kind message to oppressed Muslims on facebook! TOTALLY unchristian! and definitely not the kind of bigotry that belongs in Government! That teacher was doing exactly what the Pope recently said we should all be doing, and what Jesus Christ says in the Bible – love thy neighbour! Isn’t that a central tenat of all Christian faith? Or has Christianity turned into something totally different on this page?

      Meanwhile, does Trump even know what the 10 commandments are? Because he is on record lying repeatedly – and we know he’s lying because he gave two completely different versions of exactly the same event – so he had to be lying at least one of those times.

  • Dean Bruckner

    Bernie Sanders doesn’t want any interference as he bowls for a strike at the Ten Commandments.

  • Gary

    Vought should have told Sanders very plainly that, according to the Bible, everyone who isn’t a Christian is condemned by God. Right now. Not just after they die, but today. Of course Sanders would have been offended, but so what?

    • Fiona

      That is not in the bible!!!! What bible are you reading!!! Even sinners aren’t condemned in the bible because they can be forgiven. Hence Jesus Christ washed their feet while his own religious elders, similar to Vought, were disgusted with Jesus’ love for these sinners. what about all being equal in the eyes of the lord, and loving thy neighbour?

      • Gary

        “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18

        “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36

  • Robert Hightower

    And so it begins.

  • A. Castellitto

    Finally, a true Christian that doesn’t wilt but rises when the pressure is applied…. He made Sanders look like…. well ….. you know what they say of the man who says there is no God

    • Dena

      Yes I like this nominee. There’s only one way to heaven and that’s through Jesus. It’s a sad reality that everyone who doesn’t make Jesus the Lord of their life is going to hell, but that’s why we try to warn them.

      • Fiona

        Vought is being anti-christian. He supported firing a teacher for posting a kind message to oppressed Muslims on facebook. Vought’s ideologies are clearly not those of Jesus Christ, a Jew who ordered us to love our neighbour as ourselves and that he who was without sin should cast the first stone – we are all equal in the eyes of the Lord. Are these parts of the bible no longer accepted, or what? I don’t understand the attitude here.

        • Dena

          Jesus is the only way to heaven. There is no other way. Anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is condemned and going to hell. It’s terrible, but that’s why we try to warn people and share the love of Jesus with others. It’s the foundation of Christianity.

          • Fiona

            So, I guess then you don’t believe the good Samaritan went to heaven, since he was not Christian? Why do you think Jesus taught us about him?

          • Dena

            So you believe that the way to heaven is through good works whether you believe in Jesus, Allah, Hindu Gods, Buddha or whatever?

          • Dena

            If he didn’t believe in Jesus, he didn’t go to heaven regardless how wonderful a person he was. We should do good works, but that does not save us. We are saved by grace and putting our faith in Jesus. Grace isn’t cheap. Jesus died for our sins, because even the smallest sin would keep us from going to heaven. If we truely mean it when we ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we don’t want to sin. We want to be like Jesus and be good to people. However, if someone continues to live a sinful lifestyle after committing their life to Jesus — I question their sincerity. I question if they are truely saved.

            No one is perfect. We mess up and make mistakes and can ask Jesus for forgiveness. However, Jesus sacrifice on the cross for our sins wasn’t cheap grace. If a person says grace gives you the license to sin all you want too, that person doesn’t understand grace and is going to hell.

  • John Ingram

    “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,” – a very interesting statement by a Jew, whose people are the frequent target of Muslims! Too bad this ridiculous ideologue was cheated out of the nomination by Clinton – the 2016 election would have been a Trump landslide.

    • Andrew Mason

      Sanders isn’t a Jew he’s an Atheist. Oh wait, Islam doesn’t accept them either! Maybe he simply thinks what happens outside America is irrelevant?

      (And yes I’m aware you meant race not religion but Jew is one of those ambiguous terms)

      • Fiona

        Or maybe he doesn’t wash all people of any faith with the same brush? maybe he’s into forgiveness? Is that irrelevant these days in Christianity? I was taught that these are central tenants of my faith.

        • Wayne Cook

          You forgot one thing…he illegally attacked a Christian in a public and state forum. Against the law, Fiona.

          • Fiona

            Have a source for that? Never heard anything like that from any source, and I’ve been reading a LOT of political commentary….so would appreciate a link please. Would be extremely surprised to hear Sanders was violent to anyone because of their faith, or lack of, unless he was defending himself or someone else against violence. Sanders and the Pope got on great!

        • Andrew Mason

          You’ve conflated people with theology. Muslims are the people who claim to follow Islam not the religion itself. My point was that Islam doesn’t look favourably on Atheists. That being the case forgiveness is irrelevant. And while forgiveness is indeed part of Christianity it is not a blank cheque. To receive it you must seek it and Vought’s argument would be that Muslims don’t seek it thus can’t receive it. If they sought it then they would no longer be Muslims.

    • Fiona

      Not only interesting statement, but a highly Christian one! Forgiveness!

      He’s the most popular politician in the USA right now, according to all polls, so obviously his ideology is representative of the people.

  • Wayne Cook

    Most Dems don’t care about the law, freedom of religion, nor right and wrong. Sanders is a fool. He’s also a cheat and a liar…Moving on.

    • Fiona

      See all you’ve said here is:

      I don’t like Dems. I don’t like Sanders.

      There’s literally nothing else there…..just unsubstantiated name calling.

      • Wayne Cook

        I really could care less that you object to my statement. Enjoy your rant.

        • Fiona

          I don’t object to your statement at all! I was trying to engage you in discussion. Isn’t that the point of comment sections?

  • Fiona

    Sanders took issue with a piece Vought wrote in January 2016 about a fight at Wheaton College where they had fired a political-science professor, Larycia Hawkins, for a Facebook post expressing solidarity with Muslims. Vought defended Wheaton in an article for the The Resurgent Christian-right wing website. Sanders quoted that article where Vought wrote:

    “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 said: “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,”

    The Pope would agree – he called Muslims ‘brothers’, which is consistent with Jesus Christ teaching that we are all equal in the eyes of God. Love thy neighbour. All that good, christian stuff, or not? Wasn’t Hawkins being a good Christian by showing love to her fellow man in times of hardship?

    This statement indicates that Vought is a a self-proclaimed, textbook bigot. Where are Vought’s principals, if he thinks firing someone for being kind to their brothers is ok? because that’s totally unchristian of him. Jesus washed the feet of sinners to emphasise that even when we believe our neighbours are sinners, we are obliged to be kind to them, and to serve them in the Lord’s name. Vought clearly won’t be doing that, if he thinks people should be fired just because they wrote a kind message to people he feels superior to on facebook. What if she had washed a Muslim’s feet, by that logic? Crucify her? Total hypocrisy.

  • Gary

    The Constitution means there should be no written law that eliminates some people from public office because of their religion. For instance, it means there cannot be a law, passed by Congress and signed by the President that says if you are an Episcopal, you cannot hold public office. But it does not mean that people cannot consider religion when voting for, or against, someone. We do it all the time. And it is legitimate. Religion and morality dictate how someone would govern if they are elected. Since Sanders’ religious views contradict those of Mr. Vought, I would expect Sanders to vote against him. Same reason I would never support Sanders for office.

  • Sanders’ rejection of Christians as civil leaders is actually inherent in Article 6’s Christian test ban by which mandatory biblical qualifications were also eliminated and Amendment 1’s establishment of religion. Yes, you read that correctly:

    “…Although the First Amendment does not allow for establishing one religion over another, by eliminating Christianity as the federal government’s religion of choice (achieved by Article 6’s interdiction against Christian test oaths), Amendment 1 authorized equality for all non-Christian and even antichristian religions. When the Constitution failed to recognize Christian monotheism, it allowed Amendment 1 to fill the void by authorizing pagan polytheism.

    “Amendment 1 did exactly what the framers proclaimed it could not do: it prohibited the exercise of monotheistic Christianity (except within the confines of its church buildings) and established polytheism in its place. This explains the government’s double standard regarding Christian and non-Christian religions. For example, court participants entering the United States District Court of Appeals for the Middle District of Alabama must walk by a statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of justice. And yet, on November 18, 2002, this very court ruled that Judge Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments Monument violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Despite many Christians’ protests against this hypocrisy, it was in keeping with the inevitable repercussions of the First Amendment.

    “…Christians hang their religious hat on Amendment 1, as if some great moral principle is carved therein. They have gotten so caught up in the battle over the misuse of the Establishment Clause – the freedom from religion – that they have overlooked the ungodliness intrinsic in the Free Exercise Clause – the freedom of religion….”

    For more, see online Chapter 9 “Article 6: The Supreme Law of the Land” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 9.

    Then see Chapter 11 “Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism.”

Inspiration
How Do We Prepare to be Fully Prepared?
Dudley Hall
More from The Stream
Connect with Us