Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-V.T.) isn’t backing down after he grilled President Donald Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget during a confirmation hearing earlier this month, effectively arguing that the nominee’s Christian beliefs disqualify him from serving in the federal position.
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Sanders doubled down on his contentious proclamations during his now-infamous back and forth with nominee Russell Vought, and seemingly once again said that, though Vought is free to believe what he wants, his Christian views make him unqualified to assume office.
As Faithwire previously reported, the two clashed over a 2016 op-ed that Vought wrote defending an evangelical school’s decision to seek the removal of a professor who controversially said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
“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?” Sanders said during the heated hearing, 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.”
It was this proclamation that led “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper to ask a question that millions of Americans had in the wake of the Sanders controversy: “Senator, are you saying that someone is necessarily hateful and Islamophobic if they believe in their private life and express that in private life the only path to God is through Jesus Christ?”
Sanders went on to say “absolutely not,” but appeared to indicate that he still believes Vought has no place in government.
“One of the great parts of our Constitution is to protect freedom of religion. You practice what religion you want. I do. Mr. Vought does. That’s what it’s about,” Sanders said. “But at a time when we are dealing with Islamophobia in this country, when you got 1.2 billion people who are Muslims around the world, to have a high-ranking member of the United States government essentially say, ‘Oh, Islam is a second-class religion’ — and this all took place, by the way, in terms of his defending the firing of a professor at Wheaton College because she showed solidarity with Muslims who are — were being attacked through an anti-Muslim effort.”
He continued, “So, that seemed to me unacceptable as a government official.”
But while he maintains that Vought’s views are “unacceptable” for a person working in government, Sanders said everyone should have his or her freedom of religion as well as the right to hold whatever viewpoint they’d like.
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 — focuses 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.
While Sanders had his supporters after the incident went viral, his remarks led him to be widely condemned by people on both sides of the political aisle.