Last week, Bernie Sanders displayed a behavior that should greatly concern anyone who values religious liberties.
Sanders, who is the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, administered a religious test on Trump-appointee Russel Vought during his confirmation hearing. Sanders referenced an article that Vought wrote in early 2016 distinguishing Christian theology from Islamic theology.
In his article Vought exclaimed: "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 responded by suggesting Vought's comments to be "islamaphobic" and disrespectful towards other religions, even though Islam teaches that those who reject Allah will perish. Sanders then recommended to the chairman that the candidate not be confirmed, based on the candidate's answers to Sanders' religious test.
The Double Standard
Sanders' behavior shows a complete disregard for the U.S. Constitution, religious freedom, and even contradicts his own words.
In 2015, Sanders criticized presidential candidate Ben Carson after Carson expressed concern over the idea of a Muslim being president of the United States IF they were unwilling to separate Sharia law from the U.S. Constitution:
"You judge a candidate for the presidency not on their religion, not on the color of their skin, but on the ideas for which they stand. That's what democracy is supposed to be about. So, I was very disappointed in Dr. Carson's statement and I disagree with him." Sanders, September 2015
This is quite a different tone than Sanders took last week:
"I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is not really someone who this country is supposed to be about." Sanders, June 2017
What Does the Constitution Have to Say about Sanders' Reaction?
Article 6, section 3 states: "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
What we saw with Sanders was a United States senator who asked the nominee a series of questions about his faith and then, based off the candidate's answers, recommended that the candidate not be confirmed for public office. This is a textbook violation of the no religious test clause.
The Double Standard Is Real
Vought believes, as all biblical Christians do, that anyone who rejects Jesus will stand condemned. Anyone, not just Muslims, who rejects Jesus will stand condemned because as Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me."
God's grace cannot be beat by sin, but unless one accepts God's grace their sin will not be atoned for and thus they are condemned to suffer the consequences of their sin. This is basic Christian theology, nothing extreme. Similarly, Muslims believe that rejecting Allah merits condemnation.
Why doesn't Sanders have a problem with that? Why is it okay for Muslims to believe in eternal damnation for some but not okay for Christians to believe it? This same double standard is exposed elsewhere in American culture. Why do we have pending cases against Christian business owners who refused to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding but nobody cares that Muslim bakers refuse to as well?
What Does This Mean for Religious Freedom?
Some argue that Christians shouldn't use the word "persecution" to describe matters in the United States when there are Christians being executed for their faith in other parts of the world.
But it's a false dichotomy to suggests persecution in the U.S. is completely different than persecution abroad. One's starvation doesn't invalidate another's hunger. Both are valid; one is more extreme. Simple hunger, if not fed, will become starvation.
When issues of religious oppression surface here in the U.S. it is imperative that we fight back and we fight back vigorously. We can worship God despite laws, despite oppression, and without fear given the eternal hope that we have. But Holy Scripture mandates that we seek justice and stand up for what is right.