Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders seemed to apply a religious test to White House Deputy Budget Director nominee Russell Vought, lambasting Vought’s Christian beliefs in relation to Islam and declaring that he would oppose Vought on those grounds.
Sanders based his criticisms on an article Vought wrote in defense of Wheaton College that reads, “This is the fundamental problem. 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.”
“It is hateful,” Sanders said. “It is Islamophobic. And it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.”
According to Article VI of the Constitution, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Sanders, however, seemed to directly contradict this article via his line of questioning and reasoning he gave for opposing the nominee.
Sanders asked Vought if he believed that the statement in his piece was Islamophobic.
“Absolutely not. I’m a Christian and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith,” Vought said. “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.”
Sanders continued to press Vought over the statement, asking whether he believed that Muslims “stand condemned,” and at one point asking whether Jews stand condemned.
Vought repeatedly stated that he was a Christian and that his statement was written in defense of Wheaton, but Sanders would not accept this answer, at one point shouting, “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.”
“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,” Vought responded.
“I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is really what this country is supposed to be about,” Sanders concluded. “I will vote no.”
This story has been updated.
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