Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Religious Tests for Public Office

From Crisis:
On our own side of the pond, a hearing for a mid-level Cabinet nominee received more than the usual amount of attention when Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont sharply questioned Russell Vought, the nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, over a blog post he had written last year for the website The Resurgent. Commenting on a theological controversy involving a professor at his alma mater, Vought, an evangelical Christian, 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.”

Sen. Sanders accused Mr. Vought of religious bigotry, asking “Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? They stand condemned, too?” Mr. Vought responded, “Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly with regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.” Sen. Sanders called the post “indefensible and hateful,” with a spokesman from his office later releasing a statement saying, “In a democratic society, founded on the principle of religious freedom, we can all disagree over issues, but racism and bigotry—condemning an entire group of people because of their faith—cannot be part of any public policy.”

The statements from Sen. Sanders and his office have an admixture of truth and error, affirming some valid principles but also mistakenly identifying certain things with one another. While indeed anyone would agree that racism and bigotry “cannot be part of any public policy,” this statement asserts without demonstrating its two key claims. First, where did Mr. Vought state that he desired to make his belief regarding the soteriological status of Muslims into public policy? He made no such claim. Rather, the spokesman is insinuating that any person who holds such views has no place in making public policy. Surely such a demand would be a violation of Article VI of the Constitution, which expressly forbids any religious test for candidates for public office? And to be consistent, would Sen. Sanders question a Muslim candidate on his or her beliefs regarding the moral status of those who have not converted to Islam? (Read more.)

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