Acton Institute Powerblog

Bernie Sanders imposes a religious test for public office

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This week the U.S. Senate held a hearing in which an explosive revelation was made that threatens to undermine the Constitution.

And no, I’m not talking about the Comey hearing (that was rather a dud). I’m referring to the confirmation hearing for the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

You probably didn’t hear much about that hearing, or the nominee, Russel Vought. And you likely wouldn’t have heard about it still if Bernie Sanders hadn’t decided to impose a new religious test on anyone who wants to serve in the government.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” But Sen. Sanders and his protégé Sen. Van Hollen, D-Md. have implemented a religious test that requires government officials to espouse universalism, the belief that all humankind will eventually be saved whether they accept or reject Jesus.

The issue came up because Vought, an evangelical Christian who graduated from Wheaton College, wrote a defense of his alma mater’s statement of faith for the conservative website The Resurgent.

“Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology,” wrote Vought, pushing back against a claim made by theologian John Stackhouse. “They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”

This claim that Muslims who reject Christ “stand condemned” was brought up by Sen. Sanders during the confirmation hearing. “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,” said Sanders. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”

Then, when he is allowed to question Vought, Sanders reiterates his claim. Watch the exchange in the video below.

A few minutes later, Senator Christopher Van Hollen Jr. of Maryland quoted from Vought’s article and said,

“I think it is irrefutable that these kinds of comments suggest to a whole lot of Americans that, number one . . . you are condemning people of all faiths. I’m a Christian, but part of being a Christian in my view is recognizing that there are lots of ways that people can pursue their God. . . . It’s your comments that suggest a violation of the public trust in what will be a very important position.”

What Sanders and Van Hollen do not know is that most Christians throughout history have rejected universalism and subscribed to Jesus’s own claim that no one can go to heaven if they reject him (John 14:6). This isn’t a surprising claim to anyone with a passing familiarity to Christianity.

Just like his economic views, though, Sen. Sanders seems to have gotten his perspective on religion from a bumper sticker. He seems to think the “Coexist” bumper sticker he once saw on a ’96 Volvo is a profound summation of world religions. That must be why he believes it is “hateful” and “Islamaphobic” for Christians to say that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

The fact that Sanders and Van Hollen are profoundly ignorant about both Christianity and Islam is neither surprising nor all that disconcerting. But for them to imply that anyone who holds a traditional Christian view on salvation is unfit for public office is repugnant and unconstitutional.

Although most of America has been distracted by the Comey hearing, we shouldn’t ignore this threat to our religious freedom. We must send a clear message to Washington: Such displays of anti-Christian bias by politicians like Senator Sanders and Van Hollen has the potential to set a dangerous precedent and will not be tolerated.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

Comments

  • Rev. C

    Actually I think it’s Article VI…but the quote and link are correct.

    • Joe Carter

      Oops. Yep, I don’t know my Roman numerals! : )

      Thanks, that’s now fixed.

  • prolife5

    I would like to hear some comments from Christian Bernie supporters about this issue. Did they know he feels this way? do they defend him still?

  • NGC

    What a BS article from the right. Religion is supposed to be separate from State. It is in the Constitution. Bernie is correct. The Christian religion should never be the necessary requirement for a politician.

    • Marc Vander Maas

      You’re entirely missing the point. Sanders is not saying that belief in the tenets of the Christian religion should be a requirement to serve in public office; rather, he is implying that the opposite should be true: that assenting to the basic beliefs of Christianity makes one unfit to hold those offices.

      • NGC

        Not true. Trump Talk. Conway.

        • Marc Vander Maas

          I’m sorry, what isn’t true? And what in the world do Trump and Conway have to do with this?

  • Nohm

    I can’t believe someone is so delusional that he doesn’t understand which religion is currently a thread.