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.