On Wednesday, questioning the potential deputy White House budget director Russell Vought, who is an evangelical Christian, Senator Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish by birth but is non-practicing and acts like a self-hating Jew, virulently attacked Vought’s Christian faith. The brutal exchange went like this:
Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You 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.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?
Vought: Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and …
Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?
Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College.
Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?
Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian …
Sanders: I understand you are a Christian! But this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of 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: Thank you for probing on that question. 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: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?
Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.
Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.
As Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition points out, “Article VI of the U.S. Constitution forbids what Bernie Sanders is doing, declaring that ‘no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’”
Senator Sanders’ spokesman stated, “In a democratic society, founded on the principle of religious freedom, we can all disagree over issues, but racism and bigotry — condemning an entire group of people because of their faith — cannot be part of any public policy.”
But as Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, counterposed:
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.
Cory Gardner, (R-CO) slammed Sanders, saying, “I hope that we are not questioning the faith of others, and how they interpret their faith to themselves.”
As David French of National Review summed up:
If there was any evidence at all that Vought had ever violated the legal rights of Muslims, that would certainly be relevant to his confirmation. His Christian faith is not. Increasingly, the battle between Democrats and many Evangelicals is becoming a struggle against leftist efforts to treat orthodox Christians as second-class citizens. I can think of few better examples than the exchange above. Christians can and do believe that Jesus Christ is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” while also defending the fundamental freedoms of all their fellow citizens. That’s how our constitutional republic works. Bernie Sanders would do well to brush up on his civic education and remember that religious freedom belongs even to citizens (and nominees) he doesn’t like.