Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) said Wednesday during a Senate hearing that he rejects President Donald Trump’s pick for deputy White House budget director because of the nominee's religious beliefs.
Trump nominee Russell Vought, who served as vice president of Heritage Action for America for seven years, answered questions Wednesday from the Senate Committee on the Budget, and his religion came up.
In a January 2016 post at The Resurgent, Vought described Islam as a “deficient theology” and argued Muslims “stand condemned” because they have rejected faith in Jesus Christ.
Vought penned the post for the conservative blog in defense of his alma mater, Wheaton College, for dismissing a professor who had asserted that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” Vought claimed a person cannot truly “know God” without a dependence upon Jesus Christ.
Sanders, a self-avowed socialist, condemned Vought’s theological stance as nothing more than Islamophobia. Vought “is not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about,” the senator said, according to the Washington Post.
Sanders went on to say that Vought’s 2016 post was “indefensible. It is hateful. It is Islamophobic. And it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.”
Vought, though, stood by what he wrote, telling the panel: “I’m a Christian and I believe in a Christian set of principles.” He said that he was defending Wheaton, not trying to take an anti-Islamic stance.
“I specifically wrote it with the intention of conveying my viewpoint in a respectful manner that avoided inflammatory rhetoric,” Vought wrote in a written response to the panel.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson, founder of The Resurgent, wrote in a post of his own on the matter that Sanders “has decided to join the left’s persecution of Christians.”
Erickson went on to argue Vought is being rejected “solely because the nominee is a Christian.”
“[Sanders] has decided that voicing orthodox Christian beliefs is disqualifying for government,” Erickson wrote. “In doing so, Sanders is running afoul of our founders who believe there should be no religious test for government service."
“Vought is a practicing Christian with Christian beliefs and has not been afraid to defend them,” Erickson continued. “That is disqualifying to an atheist like Sanders, who would disqualify any real Christian since real Christians all believe as Vought does.”
A committee vote on Vought’s nomination has not yet been scheduled. If approved by the Budget Committee and another Senate panel, Vought’s nomination would advance to a full Senate vote.