Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) wasn’t willing to take a reverend’s label at face value, so he confronted the faith leader, a noted church-state separatist, during a congressional hearing Tuesday and repeatedly asked him to clarify his Christian beliefs.
“I’m curious, in your Christian beliefs, do you believe in sharing the good news that will keep people from going to hell, consistent with the Christian belief?” Gohmert asked the Rev. Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Lynn responded, “I wouldn’t agree with your construction of what hell is like or why one gets there.”
Gohmert interrupted, asking for clearer clarification.
“So, you don’t believe somebody would go to hell if they do not believe Jesus is the way, the truth, the life?,” the congressman continued.
Lynn explained that he doesn’t believe someone would go to hell for failure to embrace “a specific set of ideas in Christianity.” But Gohmert wasn’t satisfied with that answer, responding that the Christian viewpoint is very specific on the matter of salvation.
“No, not a set of ideas. Either you believe as a Christian that Jesus is the way, the truth, or life or you don’t,” he continued. “And there’s nothing wrong in our country with that — there’s no crime, there’s no shame.”
Gohmert, who said he wasn’t judging and that people are free to reject Christianity, maintained that God gives everyone the option to believe what they want.
Lynn then went on to say that he is a Christian minister who defends the Constitution, describing how he recently spoke at an atheist event.
Then, Gohmert, who said he was simply attempting to figure out how Lynn identifies what it means to be a believer, continued.
“So, the Christian belief as you see it is whatever you choose to think about Christ, whether or not you believe those words he said that nobody basically ‘goes to heaven except through me,'” Gohmert affirmed.
Watch the debate below:
The respectful ideological and theological clash unfolded during a House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice hearing surrounding the current state of religious freedom in America.
Lynn’s group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, describes itself as “a nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.”