Bernie Sanders Wants a Religious Test for Office

From Article VI, Section 3 of the United States Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

President Trump recently nominated Russell Vought to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. The normally low-profile confirmation hearing for such a position has raised eyebrows across the country.

Back in 2015, the leadership of Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school, suspended and moved to terminate Professor Larycia Hawkins, a Christian, after she announced her intention to wear a hijab in solidarity with other women who wear the same and for insisting that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Vought, a graduate from Wheaton College, wrote a column defending his alma mater which included the following statements:

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. In John 8:19, “Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” In Luke 10:16, Jesus says, “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” And in John 3:18, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

As leaders of a Christian school, Wheaton College administrators have every right to insist that members of their faculty affirm what they consider fundamental Christian tenets. If a professor employed by said institution espouses differing views, said administrators also have the right to terminate that person’s employment. Whether or not one agrees with Vought’s statements is immaterial. He is simply expressing his religious convictions in a religious context. Theological differences are relevant in a theological environment. That’s why a Protestant church can fire a pastor who espouses Catholic doctrine and vice versa. But theological differences have no bearing in a federal context.

So far, so good. If one doesn’t like Wheaton College’s theological positions, there are myriad other schools to attend. Like politics, people argue religion, and everybody has the right to affirm or deny. Our Founders were insistent that religious liberty would not entail the liberty to legally prevent a person from serving in a federal capacity over differing religious beliefs. Senator Sanders apparently disagrees with that:

It is clear Senator Sanders thinks that the belief that Muslims stand condemned because they worship a different God constitutes a disqualification from holding​ public office. Sanders does not understand that a person’s religious beliefs and practices within the confines of said person’s religious community have no bearing on said person’s acts outside the same. Proper questions such as, “Will you treat citizens who do not espouse your religious beliefs any differently from those who do?” and, “Will you refuse to fulfill the expectations of your office if you interact with those who do not share your beliefs?” should be welcomed by all parties. But to dismiss a nominee out of hand over religious differences shows that Sanders doesn’t understand the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.  Sanders has every right to get huffy about Vought’s beliefs, but not as a Senator.

If anybody needs to be dismissed, it should be Sanders over violating his oath.

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  • Brucehenry

    I heard a little something about this and figured the kerfuffle was just more hyperbole. Then I saw your video clip. Turns out it ain’t. Looks like you’re right, and Bernie is certainly wrong.

  • Oath breaking would be hard to enforce after the last eight years…

  • Brett Buck

    No, don’t you see? It’s fine to have religious tests, but only for *Christians*, because they are the underpinnings of the white heteronormative patriarchal power structure. Now, if he showed up at the hearing carrying a ticking time bomb and shouting “Allahu Akbar, death to the great Satan!”, then, you can’t have a test, because clearly it’s the fault of the very same power structure that he has been forced into this situation by our collective exploitation.

    It’s rather rare to have lefties lay out explicitly how little they either understand or care about constitutional constraints on government, or the underlying principle. Refreshing in this case. I am sure that this nutcase considers himself beyond criticism from his own party, so no need to bother hiding it.

    • Scalia

      Yes, I wonder what Sanders would have done if a Muslim nominee had written, “Christians do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know Allah because they have rejected Mohammed, peace be upon him, as Allah’s prophet, and they stand condemned.”

      • Brett Buck

        That’s a poser, alright. Because it’s pretty much certain that any Islamic public servants either said exactly that, or have tacitly accepted it as an article of faith.

        I think the reaction to the travel ban tells us all what you need to know, of course.

      • Par4Course

        Not being suicidal, Bernie would never attack a Muslim for his faith. Christians may molest alter boys but they don’t shoot or blow up people they dislike, so it’s generally safe for politicians to attack them.

        • Retired military

          The % of altar boys molested by priests is VERY LOW.
          Take a look at students being molested by teachers and you will find many many more victims. And the press wont even mention it as a overall problem like they do with the Church.

        • jim_m

          Muslims find child molestation and rape as normal. Look at the rate of men raping little boys in the muslim world and you are in for an unpleasant surprise.

      • jim_m

        Bernie, seeing that such a person is an enemy of the United States, would have moved to immediately embrace that person and to support his candidacy, much as he has already done so with Keith Ellison.

    • WHO’S THE BUSTER

      His party? I believe he is an Independent. While he ran within a party structure, that was nothing but a marriage of convenience, much like Trump.

      • Brett Buck

        The “flaming marxist nitwit that despite his proclaimed hatred of the rich and no real job in his entire life somehow managed to acquire multiple mansions” party?

        He threw in with the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the Democrat party, that’s the extent of what I need to know about his affiliation. You know the type, I think. The fact that they screwed him over is hardly surprising, and in fact, they screwed themselves, so the Democrat party was a lose/lose, meaning the American people won

      • Jwb10001

        Bernie is the leader of the gigantic hypocrite douche bag party of which most politicians are members, he’s just the worst of the bunch. Just an ordinary guy with no real job 3 houses nothing of value to say but a
        $750K book deal to say it. Waste of time.

      • jim_m

        Or more accurately, Sanders claims to be an independent, but as the democrats are now every bit as communist as he is the stand is now merely a pose. He caucuses with the communists er, democrats, he votes with them, he runs in their primaries, he fund raises for them, his operatives inhabit the party apparatus.

        Trump’s affiliation as a Republican may indeed be a matter of convenience. Michael Bloomberg’s absolutely was one. Bernie’s association with the dems is a matter of convenience only in the sense that he remains far, far, far, far to the left of them. He is an unreconstructed communist and would have swiftly imposed a communist state ha he won. He idolizes Castro, Guevera and Chavez. He is a very dangerous person politically.

      • CPUS?

  • Paul Hooson

    Jesus is actually called Isa in the Koran and believed to be the prophet of Allah before being succeeded by Muhammad. But, Isa(Jesus) is misidentified as a Muslim in the Koran, when all reputable evidence is that Jesus was both Jewish and a rabbi of some fashion.

    • Scalia

      You’re off-topic. I’ve posted numerous open threads, including one just a couple of days ago. Keep your posts on topic.

      • Retired military

        Actually Scalia, Paul’s post is somewhat on topic. In your article you do mention Jesus, Muslims, Christianity and that muslims worship a different God than Christians.

        IMO Paul’s post is well within the bounds of your topic. At least IMO.

        • Keith Wright

          Muslims worship the exact same God as Christians. Your ignorance doesn’t surprise me at all.

          • Nope.

          • Yooper

            Since Muslims don’t believe in a Trinity, they do not believe in God the same way that Christians do.

          • Red Five

            Not true in any way whatsoever. The god of the Muslims has no similarities to the God of the Bible, the God that Jews and Christians both worship. The personality and attributes of “allah” are nothing like those of Yahweh, therefore they are not the same entities. Your statement is false.

            On the greater question of the topic, Sanders was completely out of line, go figure. He was clearly testing Vought based on religious beliefs, clearly dismissed Vought due to his own disagreement with those beliefs, and clearly acted in opposition to the text of the Constitution. His vote should be invalidated or nullified based on that.

          • Scalia

            He should most definitely, at the very least, be censured. He clearly violated his oath of office.

          • How the hell can anyone be held to account for such a violation after the last eight years of a faithless President?

        • Scalia

          RM, as I noted in my post:

          Whether or not one agrees with Vought’s statements is immaterial.

          My post’s topic is whether or not Sanders applied a religious test; it is not to invite doctrinal commentary, the merits of Sharia Law or whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians. That’s all tangential to the topic.

          If Paul wants to discuss the relationship between Christianity and Islam, he is welcome to do so in the open thread I posted two days ago.

          EDIT: Limited tangential discussion is permissible if on-topic comments are made. Paul’s post is completely off-topic.

          • Brett Buck

            Even off-topic posts are tolerated in a limited way if a poster has a track record of making on-topic comments. Paul often makes completely irrelevant comments, so I have less patience with him.

            .

            It’s not just irrelevant, he rarely even seems to understand the point or the issue at hand. That’s a lot different from just a digression or thread drift (which can be very useful in some cases). Many times it’s not even a tactical deflection or tangent, it is just completely out of the blue, which suggests he didn’t read the post or at least didn’t understand it.

        • Paul Hooson

          The 5,000 year old Jewish faith is the oldest of the three faiths discussed, with the Christian and Muslim faiths having many connections to these roots as well as major differences.

          • Scalia

            That’s enough, Paul. Further off-topic comments by you will be deleted.

          • Brett Buck

            Gee, that’s fascinating insight, and we have only been hearing about it for 4500 or so years, so very timely as well.

  • Brian Brandt

    Vought made a mistake when he didn’t push back harder against Sanders. Debating theology at a political hearing is uncalled for.

    • Paul Hooson

      I agree with you. The only valid question should be whether a person might be prone to discriminate in violation of federal laws based off some views they bring in as a candidate for an appointment.

      • Scalia

        Yes, that’s on-topic. As noted in my post, what you raise is a valid point. It is perfectly reasonable for a senator to ask a nominee whether or not s/he will treat those holding different beliefs equally.

  • Yooper

    Since Muslims don’t believe in a Trinity, they do not believe in God the same way that Christians do, and since they both can’t be right one must be wrong or both. Bernie was completely wrong for saying that this candidate should be disqualified because of his religious belief.

    • Scalia

      Yes, Sanders is wrong, but not because God is a Trinity or that Christians are right and Muslims are wrong. Who is right or wrong in a religious dispute has no bearing on whether a religious test should be applied to those seeking public office.

      Politicians are not arbiters of doctrinal purity. If a Jehovah’s Witness is a nominee, h/er views on the Godhead are irrelevant.

      • Paul Hooson

        I don’t think Jehovah’s Witnesses seek any political appointments, positions or even vote, as these are violations of the principles of their faith. But, I understand you are trying to show some example here.

        • Scalia

          Yes, that’s correct. I’m merely using them to illustrate a point.

      • Scalia,

        The Constitutional issue you raise is black letter law. The theological issue is not relevant to your point.

        • Scalia

          I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re getting at. My point is that no theological issue has standing in a confirmation hearing. So, the fact that a Jehovah’s Witness may be wrong with respect to the Godhead does not disqualify said person from serving.

      • pennywit

        However, if the Jehovah’s Witness is nominated to an HHS position, wouldn’t you find his views on blood transfusions of interest?

        • Scalia

          If you’re serious, then it’s legitimate to ask if the nominee’s beliefs will interfere with h/er duties.

          C’mon, pennywit. You can say it: It’s wrong to impose a religious test for office. See? It’s easy.

          • pennywit

            I was being somewhat off the cuff. But I’ll be a little more blunt if you like:

            I oppose religious tests for office, but I also consider it legitimate to determine whether a nominee’s beliefs, founded in religion or not, would interfere with his ability to execute the duties of that office.

          • Scalia

            And that’s not what Sanders was doing. Sanders clearly applied a religious test and used that as the basis for rejecting the nominee.

          • pennywit

            See my comment from 28 minutes ago.

  • pennywit

    OK, Scalia, my thoughts, since you asked nicely elsewhere.

    My first thought on this is that a nominee’s writings and beliefs are certainly legitimate avenues of inquiry in the nomination process, regardless of whether those beliefs are religiously or otherwise motivated, as long as those attitudes or beliefs are reasonably germane to the office he has been nominated fo. If, for example, somebody believes that psychiatrists are inherently evil, I would not want that person in charge at a mental-health agency, regardless of whether that nominee’s belief is informed by Scientology.

    Similarly, if somebody has publicly written that Muslims “stand condemned” before God, that person would probably be a poor choice to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Not so much because he holds that as a religious belief, but because that belief could make it harder for him to interact with Riyadh’s theocratic monarchy.

    As to Sanders interaction with Vought …

    I don’t agree with the direction Sanders took. It looks like Sanders was, as you put it, trying to tear into Vought for his religious belief regarding a Christian doctrine, rather than explore whether that belief would affect his ability to execute his duty as deputy OMB director. I’d say Sanders was out of line.

    • Scalia

      …to the office he has been nominated fo.

      Been spending some time with southern relatives?

      • pennywit

        No, just hanging with Snoop and his posse. Fo shizzle.