WASHINGTON — Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders became agitated and hostile on Wednesday during the questioning of Deputy Budget Director nominee Russell Vought, as he noted a social media post written by Vought that remarked that Muslims “do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”
Sanders began by reading a joint letter from the Arab American Institute, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, and Muslim Advocates, which expressed objection to Vought’s nomination because he had “denigrated Muslims” and therefore has shown “hostility to religious pluralism.”
He then pointed to a portion of an article written by Vought last January in response to the Wheaton College controversy surrounding then-professor Larycia Hawkins’ assertion that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” Hawkins’ remarks had resulted in an investigation by the college and generated much discussion nationwide as to whether or not the Christian school was right to take action when such messages are put forth by its staff.
“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,” Vought, an alumni of Wheaton and a Christian, wrote in part in commenting on the controversy.
“Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?” Sanders asked during questioning on Wednesday.
“Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith,” Vought replied. “That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation.”
Sanders then asked Vought if he believes Muslims are condemned by God for rejecting His Son.
“Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?” he inquired.
“Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College,” Vought responded.
“I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America—maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned, too?” Sanders questioned.
Vought again sought to emphasize that he is a Christian, and Christians believe that Christ is the only way to God.
“I understand you are a Christian!” Sanders erupted angrily. “But this country is made of people who are not just—I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world.”
He repeated, “In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”
“As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals,” Vought replied.
Sanders, finding it disrespectful to state that those who reject Jesus stand in danger of God’s judgment, again pressed 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.
“Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation,” Vought repeated.
Sanders then remarked that Vought is unAmerican and therefore should not be confirmed.
“I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about,” he said.
He also released a statement about Vought later in the day, remarking that “condemning an entire group of people because of their faith cannot be part of any public policy.”
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
He also declared in John 3:18, “He that believeth on Him (the Son of God) is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”