A Texas pastor is demanding that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) either apologize or resign after he grilled President Donald Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget during a hearing on Wednesday, effectively arguing that the nominee’s Christian beliefs disqualify him from serving in the position.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, released a statement following the Russell Vought’s confirmation hearing, pushing back against Sanders’ controversial line of questioning over an article that Vought wrote in January 2016 about the ever-contentious debate over Islamic and Christian theology.
“Because of this assault on the Constitution and on fully 41 percent of the American people, there are only two responsible courses of action for Senator Sanders,” Jeffress said. “Apologize to the country for his foolhardy attempt to introduce an unconstitutional litmus test that would exclude 41 percent of the country, or resign.”
The pastor likened Sanders’ questions of Vought to an “unconstitutional religious test” and said that Sanders attacked the nominee over his evangelical beliefs, saying that Vought’s comments in the 2016 article — in which Vought wrote that Muslims stand “condemned” because they reject Jesus — are “historical Christian beliefs.”
“This attack by Senator Sanders is abhorrent first of all because Article VI of our Constitution provides that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,'” he said. “Vought’s comments in a blog post, published in the context of a controversy at the Christian college from which he graduated, affirmed the words of Jesus Himself who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).”
But despite Vought’s comments being rooted in basic Christian theology, Jeffress said that Sanders went on to impose a “religious test” when he concluded during the hearing that Vought is “really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about” and that he will vote no on his confirmation.
“These words, and this sentiment, are not only unconstitutional, but unconscionable by a public official,” Jeffress said. “This attack by Sanders is abhorrent because he has effectively said that evangelicals, who make up 41 percent of the population of our country, are not qualified to serve in public office, and ‘not what this country is all about.'”
As Faithwire previously reported, the article that Vought wrote for the Resurgent back in January 2016 — the very piece at the center of Sanders’ anger — focused on the then-furious debate at Wheaton College over whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God — a popular, heated and seemingly never-ending dispute in theological circles.
“You wrote, ‘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,’” Sanders said to Vought’s during a hearing. “Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?”
Vought responded that he absolutely does not see the theological statement as Islamophobic, and explained that he is a Christian who embraces “a Christian set of principles based on my faith.” But as he attempted to place the article in context, Sanders interrupted and said “we just don’t have a lot of time” before asking whether Vought believes Muslims “stand condemned.”
The back-and-forth progressed until Sanders made it clear that he wouldn’t support Vought.
“You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?” he asked, before proclaiming that he won’t vote for Vought. “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
Watch it all unfold below: