Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), criticized Bernie Sanders this week for opposing President Trump’s budget nominee because of his Christian religious beliefs.
The Vermont senator attacked Russell Vought on Wednesday in questioning him about his theological convictions. Vought is Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Sanders accused Vought of being “Islamophobic” and “hateful” because of Vought’s 2016 blog post about a controversy at his alma mater Wheaton College regarding whether Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Vought 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, who last year made an unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic nominee for president, said that he will vote against Vought’s nomination and that Vought “is not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about.”
In an ERLC press release, Moore said:
Senator Sanders’ comments are breathtakingly audacious and shockingly ignorant—both of the Constitution and of basic Christian doctrine. Even if one were to excuse Senator Sanders for not realizing that all Christians of every age have insisted that faith in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to salvation, it is inconceivable that Senator Sanders would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office in defiance of the United States Constitution. No religious test shall ever be required of those seeking public office. While no one expects Senator Sanders to be a theologian, we should expect far more from an elected official who has taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution.
Sanders’ comments have caused a storm on social media among orthodox Christians. The Atlantic also took the senator to task. Writer Emma Green wrote that Sanders “flirted with the boundaries” of Article VI of the Constitution, which says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Green continued, “Sanders used the term ‘Islamophobia’ to suggest that Vought fears Muslims for who they are. But in his writing, Vought was contesting something different: He disagrees with what Muslims believe, and does not think their faith is satisfactory for salvation. Right or wrong, this is a conviction held by millions of Americans—and many Muslims might say the same thing about Christianity.”
Moore has drawn controversy among conservative Christians who say his views on immigration and refugees and other topics are too progressive, and that he doesn’t fight hard enough for religious liberty for Christians. But his remarks condemning Sanders’ comments this week were swift and decisive.
The ERLC has offices in Nashville and Washington, D.C.