Did Bernie Sanders (attempt to) impose a religious test?

Did Bernie Sanders (attempt to) impose a religious test? June 9, 2017; By Arnesen (Woman and Children) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

It would seem so, given the manner in which he questioned Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, about a piece he wrote in light of last year’s Wheaton College controversy.  (See The Atlantic, and elsewhere.)

As The Atlantic presents the story:

Sanders took issue with a piece Vought wrote in January 2016 about a fight at the nominee’s alma mater, Wheaton College. The Christian school had fired a political-science professor, Larycia Hawkins, for a Facebook post intended to express solidarity with Muslims. Vought disagreed with Hawkins’s post and defended the school in an article for the conservative website The Resurgent. During the hearing, Sanders repeatedly quoted one passage that he found particularly objectionable:

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 my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” Sanders told the committee during his introductory remarks. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”

Sanders continued to press the issue that he interpreted this statement as “Islamophobic” and offensive to all Muslims and announced that, on this basis, he would vote “no” on the nomination.

The author of the article, Emma Green, suggests that Sanders misunderstood Vought, and believed that the “condemnation” was a this-world matter of intolerance for Muslims, rather than the theological belief that they’ll go to hell in the next world.  But she also cites Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who said that “I’m a Christian, but part of being a Christian, in my view, is recognizing that there are lots of ways that people can pursue their God.”  That is, Van Hollen seems to claim that Vought is not a “real Christian” if he believes that non-Christians go to Hell” which I suppose means that he thinks he’s not “imposing a religious test” because he considers the belief, “non-Christians go to Hell” not to be a matter of Christianity, or of a religious belief, per se, but a moral belief — “no moral person would believe such a thing.”

And that’s the trick, isn’t it?  It’s fine with Sanders, or Van Hollen, or plenty of others, if you believe that God, in the person of Jesus, came to earth, died, and was resurrected; or that God plucked Mohammed out of obscurity to tell his secrets to; or that your soul is reincarnated after you die.  It’s also fine to observe certain quirky customs regarding food (kosher) or dress (veiling), so long as those are understood to be limited to your specific religious group or your own personal choice, with no general applicability.  (And Islamist groups that say, “all women should veil and are asking for it if they don’t, and all people should be obliged to follow Sharia law” don’t get a pass because of Religious Freedom, but because of that alternate principle, “Thou shalt not criticize an ethnic minority group” and Muslims are treated like a race/ethnicity.)

But the freedom to hold religious/moral beliefs about what’s right or wrong in general, or any sort of belief that has to do with people outside your religion, or, really, other than you yourself, hasn’t been considered “acceptable” by the Left for a long time.  So it really is not a big surprise that Sanders, or anyone from the Left, would deem “non-Christians go to Hell” to be an unacceptable, immoral belief.


Image:; By Arnesen (Woman and Children) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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