Senate Democrats’ Christian Problem

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  July 2, 2018   

Bernie Sanders' unconstitutional religious litmus test

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Senate Democrats seem to have a serious Christian problem. Not only did Catholic professor Amy Coney Barrett endure unconstitutional questioning of her personal religious beliefs during judicial confirmation hearings last year, Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders also indulged in an anti-Christian screed during confirmation hearings for a Protestant nominee to the Office of Management and Budget.

In 2017, Sanders grilled evangelical Russell Vought, concluding that his personal beliefs would make him unfit for office.

"You wrote, 'Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology; they do not know God because they've rejected Jesus Christ His Son, and they stand condemned,'" Sanders said, reading a quote from Vought's writings. "Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?"

"Absolutely not, Senator," Vought answered. "I'm a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith."

After more heated questioning specifically directed to Vought's Christian beliefs, Sanders concluded, "I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone with what this country is supposed to be about."

The U.S. Constitution explicitly bans religious testing of citizens before allowing them to assume public office. Article Six of the U.S. Constitution reads, "The Senators and Representatives ... 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."
Sanders objected to Vought's Christian understanding that "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." During Sanders' religious examination, Vought simply reiterated that he is a Christian.
In August 2016, Cdl. Raymond Burke, former head the Vatican's highest court, said that Catholics and Muslims aren't worshiping the same God:

I don't believe it's true that we're all worshipping the same God because the God of Islam is a governor. In other words, fundamentally Islam is, Sharia is their law, and that law, which comes from Allah, must dominate every man eventually. And it's not a law that's founded on love.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 841, notes that Muslims "profess to hold the faith of Abraham." In chapter eight of John's Gospel, however, Our Lord contradicted certain "Jews" who professed to be "children of Abraham." This lively exchange is recorded in John 8:39–44:

They answered and said to him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you are the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill me, one who has spoken the truth to you which I have heard from God. That is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works of your father. ... If God were your Father, you would surely love me. For from God I came forth. ... The father from whom you are is the devil, and the desires of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning.

Protestants took exception to Sanders' religious litmus test. Russell Moore, head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, remarked, "Even if one were to excuse Senator Sanders for not realizing that all Christians of every age have insisted that faith in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to salvation, it is inconceivable that Senator Sanders would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office."

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U.S. bishops reacted to a similar line of questioning last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee directed at federal judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett. In a letter published last September, Abp. William Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty blasted the U.S. Senate for the unconstitutional religious examination:

Such questions are not just contrary to our Constitution and our best national traditions, which protect the free exercise of one's faith and reject religious tests for public office, they are offensive to basic human rights. They also, sadly, harken back to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order. These comments are a reminder that we must remain vigilant against latent bigotries that may still infect our national soul.

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