The Senate has confirmed Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget.
What makes Vought’s nomination novel is the fact that his Christian beliefs enraged Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential-primary race.
“This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about,” Sanders seethed when Vought was being interviewed by the Senate.
The senator referred to a piece Vought wrote that expressed the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
On Wednesday, it took a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to confirm Vought.
When Vought came before the Senate last June, Sanders shouted at him, noted David French in National Review.
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 (shouting): 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.
The Family Research Council described Sanders’ attitude as “religious bigotry.”
The group also launched a petition signed by more than 55,000 Americans calling on Sanders to apologize for his unconstitutional religious test.
FRC President Tony Perkins said: “It was a shocking moment to watch a United States senator declare that holding to a central tenet of Christianity that Jesus is the only way of salvation is enough to render a well-qualified nominee unfit for public service. Vought’s biblical view of salvation is no different than what Billy Graham preached for more than six decades.”
He said, “Thankfully, 49 senators and Vice President Pence in his tie breaking vote sent a message that public servants can express their biblical views on salvation without fear of being held to an unconstitutional religious test. ”
Perkins said the thought that Sanders “is a senator who almost won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president – a man who thinks there’s no room in the public square for people who believe the Bible – is a chilling one.”
“I congratulate Russell Vought and thank President Trump and Vice President Pence for standing up for the freedom of every American to believe and live out those beliefs in the public square,” Perkins concluded.
Sanders’ diatribe triggered responses, including one from Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who said, “There was some dispute in a … hearing about Russell Vought and his faith … about is he too much of a Christian to be able to serve. I just want to make a public statement that that’s appalling to me … Article XI of the Constitution says there no religious test for any officer of the United States and that shouldn’t even have been a discussion in that committee hearing.”
French noted at the time that Sanders’ “tirade was certainly outrageous.”
“This is what happens when our national polarization breeds both ignorance and intolerance, and when intolerance trumps even the rule of law,” he said. “(One wonders: Would he grill an Islamic nominee in a similar fashion?)”
French said Sanders “personifies the arrogant contempt for Evangelicals that so often marks the secular American elite.”
“They don’t understand Protestant Christian theology. They read the worst stories of Christian behavior and presume that those stories fairly represent Evangelical beliefs. So they try to drive Evangelicals from the public square, and in so doing they become the intolerant scolds they imagine their foes to be. They hate Christianity, and use political power to try to suppress its influence. They presume that their Christian opponents would do the same. Thus, they spark the exact kind of religious conflict that the founders sought to avoid.”
He finished with a warning about Sanders and his ilk.
“Sanders’ actions also show the fragility of one of our core constitutional protections. There is no right or ability to sue Sanders into compliance. He can vote however he chooses, and there is no cause of action to compel him to cleanse his mind of unconstitutional motivations when he casts those ballots. Thus, one of our nation’s most important traditions depends on senators simply doing the right thing. But when our politics gets this polarized, it’s easy to justify ignoring the Constitution or rationalizing away its requirements for the sake of an alleged greater good. That’s what Sanders did here, and given the ignorance and intolerance that dominates our national debate, we can expect him — or others who think like him — to do it again.”