The Religious Test of Russell Vought, but Not Mark Green

Critics have come out in force against US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) after he said he would not support President Trump’s nominee for the deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought. Sanders’ reason? Vought has Christian beliefs, which he expressed in a column defending Wheaton College in 2016 in which he said that “Muslims stand condemned”:

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 his questioning during the confirmation hearing for Vought’s nomination to the OMB, Sanders asked:

Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?

…I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that these people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?

In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?

I would simply say, Mr. Chairman that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.

Atheists, liberals, and Christians alike have condemned Sanders for saying he would oppose Vought’s nomination because of his religious beliefs. In fact, they’ve said he was imposing a “religious test.”

From the liberal leaning Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director Amanda Tyler:

Sanders’ line of questioning imposed a religious test, which is forbidden by Article VI of the Constitution.

From Russell Moore, of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

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.

From Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

Americans should never be forced to choose between their faith and public service. Nor should the U.S. Senate try to impose a stealth litmus test that says ‘you can be religious as long as you don’t actually believe or talk about what the Bible teaches.'”

(The FRC also posted a petition calling for Sanders to apologize.)

Even the unfriendly atheist, Hemant Mehta said it, through clenched teeth:

Sanders said he would vote no to Vought because he’s a Bible-believing Christian…That’s religious discrimination. That’s a violation of Article 6 of the Constitution (the part that says there should be no religious test for public office).

And that’s why Ed Brayton is squirming right now. Brayton explicitly said one Senator voting “no” because of religious beliefs was not a “religious test” — in fact, it was so obvious he found it “absurd” to even suggest it. Yet now a wide swath of people — of varying religious and ideological beliefs — disagrees with him.

Not everyone does. The ACLU didn’t address the religious test issue but instead said Vought’s “views threaten [religious] freedom.” US News interviewed “experts” who essentially said Sanders can do whatever he wants. Their argument, in not so many words, was the “no religious test” clause is essentially unenforceable except against written legislation. That was essentially Brayton’s position, but one which, as previously discussed, begs the question: Where in the US Constitution does it say the prohibited “religious test” has to be a written law?

Brayton is a rare bird in most intellectual discussions, and he has, in the past, taken even his ideological allies to task for advocating incorrect positions. He may yet reassert his original position that those claiming a “religious test” may be indicated are wrong. But Brayton’s new problem isn’t his position, but his delivery. Previously, he reveled in his patronizing sarcasm when criticizing Gordon Klingenschmitt — and — but he can now no longer simply vaunt himself as an expert on this “absurd” suggestion.

This leads, of course, to the subject of Brayton’s original invective: Tennessee State Senator Mark Green, who was almost nominated for the position of Secretary of the Army, but ultimately withdrew when Senators started to express concerns regarding criticisms from LGBT activists.

With regard to the Constitution and their potential confirmations, what’s the difference between Mark Green and Russell Vought?

Turns out, not much.

It seems the main differences were two: First, Vought’s statements were in an expressly apolitical context. Second, Vought’s statements were about Muslims, while Green’s were related to LGBT issues and creationism.

The former is academic, given that the religion of a faithful man influences all aspects of his life, political or not. The latter is fascinating to think about: If Vought had said the LGBT community stood condemned, instead of Muslims, would the reaction have been as muted, and played down as a standard evangelical belief?

For Mark Green, the activist homosexual community misrepresented his statements and caricatured his legislative actions to paint him as “anti-LGBT” for the intent purpose of preventing his nomination — but Mark Green is no more anti-LGBT than any other Bible-believing Christian is. It is not just possible, it is very likely that had Vought aimed his theology at the homosexual lifestyle choice rather than Muslims, he, too, would have become a target of their invective. In that regard, it seems one significant difference wasn’t the nominees, but their opposition: The organizational — and sensational — opposition put forth by homosexuals, versus the silence from Muslims.

In fact, it is entirely likely, even probable, that Mark Green and Russell Vought hold precisely the same beliefs when it comes to Muslims, homosexuals, creation, and Jesus Christ.

Finally, it is most notable that neither Vought nor Green ever gave any reason to believe they would mistreat any person due to their religious beliefs or were otherwise unqualified for their positions — yet that is what his critics claimed. For Vought [emphasis added]:

“The question at hand is not about Mr. Vought’s freedom to hold certain religious beliefs,” the senator’s spokesman told [FoxNews]. “The question that concerns Sen. Sanders is whether Mr. Vought will carry out the duties of his office in a way that treats all Americans equally, even those whose beliefs he has criticized.”

For Green [emphasis added]:

Mark Green’s anti-LGBTQ remarks should disqualify anyone seeking to be in charge of the United States Army, which includes many out and proud soldiers,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD

Senator Sanders simply gave voice to what many anti-Christian activists have long believed: Christians should be disqualified from public service because of their beliefs. Sanders just said so in a fairly direct way, which caused even those who agree with his basic ideology to backpedal.

American citizens who hold Christian beliefs should not be disqualified from public office simply because others disagree with their theologies, yet that is what these activists normally propose. Support coal and you’re a Christian? Your creationism is endangering the planet. Believe God knit you together in the womb? Your “anti-abortion” stance is discriminatory against women. Support traditional marriage and normal views on sexuality? Well, you may be a Christian, but you’re also a bigot.

Logically, upstanding American citizens should keep planet-endangering discriminatory bigots out of office, right?

That’s all Senator Sanders wants to do.

Bernie Sanders thinks Christians with “Islamophobic” views shouldn’t be in government. Ashley Broadway and her fellow homosexual activists think Christians with “homophobic” views shouldn’t be in government. Michael “Mikey” Weinstein thinks Christians with, well, just about any Christian views shouldn’t be in the military.

These reactions to Christianity aren’t anything new. The only thing that’s changing is how normalized they’re becoming, indicating the growing acceptance of some to open hostility — and discrimination — toward Christians in America.

Then again, that’s not really new, either.

When they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Mark 13:11-13

Also at NPR and Christianity Today.