WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, is catching heat over a line of questioning he made during Russell Vought’s Senate Confirmation hearing.
Vought is President Trump’s nominee for Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The Vermont senator wanted to know more about an article Vought wrote on the conservative blog The Resurgent.
In it, Vought said, “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.”
During the hearing, Sanders’ probed Vought over whether or not someone with such ideology would be fit to lead a public office.
"Do you believe that statement is Islamaphobic?” asked Sanders referring to the article from The Resurgent.
“Absolutely not Senator. I am a Christian and I believe in Christian set of principles based on my faith,” Vought replied.
"Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned?" Sanders probed. "What about Jews? Do they stand condemned, too?"
“Senator, I am a Christian…”Vought replied.
"I understand you are a Christian," Sanders went on to say. “But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?"
“As a Christian I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs,” Vought responded.
Now political leaders and even entertainers are responding to Sanders’ inquiry, saying it is dangerously close to a religious test.
"My colleague Bernie Sanders questioned an OMB nominee this week about religion in a way that is dangerously close to crossing a clear constitutional line for how we evaluate qualifications for public service. Article VI of the US Constitution clearly states, ‘no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’ The First Amendment is crystal clear,” said Senator James Lankford, R-OK in a statement.
“We cannot say we have the free exercise of religion and also require people to practice their faith only in a way that government officials prefer,” Lankford continued.
Evangelical leader Franklin Graham also responded to Sanders’ line of questioning.
“Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ End of discussion,” Graham posted to Facebook.
NFL star and outspoken Christian Benjamin Watson also took to Facebook in defense of Vought.
“With all the talk about what's unAmerican, a U.S. senator attempting to disqualify a nominee because of his faith is exhibit A,” posted Watson.
One member of Congress did, however, back Sanders.
“I’m a Christian. But part of being Christian, in my view, is recognizing there are lots of ways people can pursue their god,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD.
A spokesperson for Sanders said the senator is concerned whether or not Vought can “carry out the duties of his office in a way that treats all Americans equally.”