Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ban Christians from Public Office

Bernie Sanders believes that Christians should not be in public office. And he is not alone.

I know this sounds like fake news. It’s not.


Yesterday was the Senate confirmation hearing for Russell Vought, Trump’s nominee for Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (and yes, it was as boring as it sounds). But for some, the concern was not his ability to manage or his qualifications to run the office. Rather, it was his personal religious beliefs.

Senators Christopher Van Hollen Jr. and Bernie Sanders, as well as the ACLU, all expressed that Vought’s Christian beliefs made him unfit for office.

I’ll touch on what each of them said below, but you can listen to the whole confirmation hearing here and read ACLU’s statement here. If you do, I think you'll find that the quotes below are not cherry picked words taken out of context,  bur rather are fair summations of their expressed positions. In short:

“Religious freedom is such a fundamental liberty that the framers of our Constitution enshrined it in the First Amendment. That’s why it’s so disturbing that Trump continues to pack his administration with appointees like Russell Vought, whose views threaten that very freedom.” – ACLU
“I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world… I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about.” – Sanders
"I think it is irrefutable that these kinds of comments suggest to a whole lot of Americans that, number one... you are condemning people of all faiths… It’s your comments that suggest a violation of the public trust in what will be a very important position." – Van Hollen Jr.

What comments could Vought have possibly said that created such a fuss? Did he say that Christians should receive priority treatment under the government? Did he say that we should have a Muslim registry or hijabs be banned? Did he propose that transsexuals not be allowed in the military, say homosexual marriage be repealed, or say something racist?

Surely, it must have been something most heinous.

Nope.

This is all in direct response to something that Vought wrote back in 2016: “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.” (and that’s not conjecture – they repeatedly refer to this statement)

For context, Vought was writing a theological piece in response to statements made by Canadian scholar John Stackhouse Jr. and then Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins, in which they said that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God (here).

Now, none of this should matter whatsoever. Even if Vought’s view wasn’t the overwhelmingly accepted view among Christian theologians present and historic (which it is), so what? It’s totally normal for scholars of any faith to debate among themselves, Christianity notwithstanding. I would argue that it’s a very important doctrine that should be defended, but so what? It’s an internal debate without external ramifications. From a governmental standpoint, it’s a moot issue. We might as well be arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – unless Bernie has a bet going, he really has no business bringing it up in a Senate confirmation hearing.

Of course, if Vought said something like “Muslims are secondary citizens” or “Christians are superior human beings,” that would be different. That would imply treating these groups of people differently, which would be quite wrong. But he didn’t. He was talking about the afterlife, for goodness sake!

So, essentially, Bernie and others are arguing that unless you hold a particular set of beliefs concerning the afterlife, you shouldn’t be allowed in public office.

The irony of ironies is that this was all done by appealing to the First Amendment. They were literally using the document that says the government cannot discriminate on the basis of religion in order to discriminate on the basis of religion.

Would they have objected to a Muslim nominee who believed in the five pillars of Islam? Would they have objected to a Hindu nominee who believed in karma?

I smell religious discrimination, and it’s not Vought.

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