The Family Research Council has launched a petition drive seeking an apology from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for his remarks about Russell Vought, President Donald Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday.

More than 35,000 people have signed the petition letter to Sanders, which says, in part: “Our Constitution guarantees there will be no religious litmus test. Americans should never be forced to choose between their faith and public service.”

During the hearing Sanders didn’t ask Vought about his financial expertise but questioned his belief that salvation is found alone through Jesus Christ, a belief expressed in a column he wrote last year.

Sanders quoted the column and this exchange followed:

Sanders: “‘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.’ Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?”

Vought: “Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith…”

Sanders: “…Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?”

Vought: “Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College.” (Vought attended the college.)

Sanders: “I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that these people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?”

Vought: “Senator, I’m a Christian…”

Sanders (shouting): “I understand you are a Christian, but this country [is] made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of 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?”

Vought: “Thank you for probing on that question. 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. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals…”

Sanders: “…Do you think that’s respectful of other religions?… I would simply say, Mr. Chairman that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

Charisma News reported:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins issued a call to action for the organization’s supporters, urging them to call their senators to demand that they rebuke U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for [the] bigoted remarks he made to Deputy OMB Director-designate Russell Vought in a confirmation hearing Wednesday.

In the email, obtained by Charisma Caucus, Perkins wrote:

Last night, U.S. senators witnessed one of the most stunning outbursts of religious bigotry and hostility in recent memory. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) responded in anger after Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, answered a question about his belief that salvation is found alone through Jesus Christ. Sanders declared that Mr. Vought is ‘really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.

Perkins’ Washington Update addressed the issue on the FRC website:

Actually, Russell Vought is exactly what this country is about. He’s exercising the belief that America was founded upon: that we are one nation, under God. The ability to voice that belief — even in the public square — is the same vision that brought the Pilgrims to America. Honestly, it doesn’t get any more central to America’s identity than that. But after two terms of trying to drive Christianity underground, the Left isn’t about to declare a cease fire. If Bernie Sanders’s comments are any indication, they’re more determined than ever to wipe men and women of faith off the public service map.

Just because Christians believe what Jesus said about man’s spiritual destiny (“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”) doesn’t mean they think other faith groups have no rights. On the contrary, Christians are the most consistent defenders of religious liberty for all.

“In a democratic society,” Sanders said in a statement released after the backlash from his remarks, “founded on the principle of religious freedom, we can all disagree over issues, but racism and bigotry — condemning an entire group of people because of their faith — cannot be part of any public policy.”

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