Open Letter From Conservative Leaders: Stop Religious Intolerance


June 20, 2017
Washington, DC


At the recent confirmation hearing of Office of Management and Budget deputy director nominee Russell Vought, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), joined by Sen. Chris van Hollen (D- MD) asked him a number of intrusive and openly hostile questions about his religious beliefs.1 We find the manner in which these questions were asked, and even more so, their substance, to be not only extremely disturbing but unconstitutional.

Senators Sanders and van Hollen were apparently bothered by a past blog post of Vought’s in which he defended a religious school’s religious doctrine. Part of the post stated: “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.” In the hearing, Sanders asked Vought whether he really believed that Muslims and Jews and “people who are not Christians are going to be condemned.” When Vought emphasized that he was simply declaring long-held Christian truths while making a theological argument, Sanders interrupted and said his views weren’t very “respectful,” finally declaring Vought to be “not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) decided Sanders’ line of questioning was worthy and pursued Sen. Sanders same line of questioning, saying “No one is questioning your faith. … It’s your comments that suggest a violation of the public trust in what will be a very important position.”

These questions and comments are quite disturbing. What’s particularly alarming about them is they reveal Senator Sanders’ and van Hollen’s inability to discern between private religious beliefs and public policy. There was no mention of any possible public policy application of Vought’s beliefs, either at the hearing or in his record. There can be nothing in this exchange to which Sanders or van Hollen could object aside from the nature and substance of Vought’s personal beliefs which are, as Sen. Sanders pointed out in the hearing, held by a majority of the American people.

So, in addition to engaging in an unconstitutional religious test for public office, Sanders and van Hollen display dangerously imprecise and wrong-headed thinking that exclude from public service any person whose religious views the government doesn’t like.

The very founding of our country is anchored in the idea, set forth in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, that the federal government should not order compliance with any specific theology. Thus, if Sanders and van Hollen believe their theological views are permissible for a government official but that Vought’s are not, the creation of such a paradigm would “establish” a government religion and violate the very principle of the First Amendment these Senators claim to support.

Regardless, this incident shows that the singling out of private religious beliefs during a confirmation hearing has no place in America. Candidates for public office must be assessed on the policies they propose and their ability to serve the public good. To do otherwise only furthers the type of bigotry which Sanders and van Hollen purport to condemn.


1 Nomination Hearing for Deputy Director of White House Budget Office, U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget, June 7, 2017 (start viewing at the 44:20 mark), director_of-white-house-budget-office



The Honorable Edwin Meese III
Attorney General
President Ronald Reagan

Tony Perkins MPA
President, Family Research Council
President, Council for National Policy

Michael A. Needham
Chief Executive Officer
Heritage Action for America

Rod D. Martin
Founder & CEO
The Martin Organization, Inc.

Haley E. Martin
The Martin Foundation

Nicholas Stehle
Campaign for the American Future

Cleta Mitchell, Esq.

David Bozell
For America

The Honorable Jim DeMint
U.S. Senate
Former Member, South Carolina

The Honorable T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr.
Former Counselor
US Attorney General

Brian S. Brown
National Organization for Marriage

Anthony Allen
Hannibal LaGrange University

Allen Hebert
American-Chinese Fellowship of Houston

Robert K. Fischer
Meeting Coordinator
Conservatives of Faith

Ken Boehm
National Legal and Policy Center

Sean Noble
American Encore

Gary L. Bauer
American Values

Donna Hearne
Chief Executive Officer
The Constitutional Coalition

William Pascoe
Managing Partner
Antietam Communications

The Honorable Mike Spence
Founding President
Conservative Republicans of California

The Honorable Mica Mosbacher
Mosbacher Interests

Karen England
Executive Director, Capitol Resource
Institute & Nevada Family Alliance

Penna Dexter
Point of View Radio

Tim LeFever
Capitol Resource Institute

Caroline Camden Lewis
Percipio Communications

Willes K. Lee
National Federation of Republican Assemblies

Floyd Brown
Western Center for Journalism

Forest Thigpen
Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Col Francis X. De Luca USMCR(Ret)
Civitas Institute

The Honorable Ken Cuccinelli II
Senate Conservatives Fund

Melvin Adams
Past President

Dan Weber
Founder & CEO
Association of Mature American Citizens

Joseph A. Morris
Morris & De La Rosa

The Honorable Becky Norton Dunlop
Chairman, Conservative Action Project
Former White House Advisor,
President Ronald Reagan

The Honorable Bob McEwen
U.S. House of Representatives
Former Member, Ohio

The Honorable David McIntosh
U.S. House of Representatives
Former Member, Indiana

Sherri R. Martin
Executive Vice President
The Martin Organization, Inc.

Shawn A. Mitchell
National Chaplain
National Federation of Republican Assemblies

Evelio Silvera
Campaign for the American Future

Ralph Benko
Syndicated Columnist

The Honorable Colin A. Hanna
Let Freedom Ring, Inc.

Ed Corrigan
Former Executive Director
Senate Steering Committee

William L. Walton
Vice President
Council for National Policy

Richard Manning
Americans for Limited Government

Barry Creamer
Criswell College

Jerry Melvin
Florida Republican Assembly

Rebecca Hagelin
Board of Directors, Dr. James Dobson’s
Family Talk & Secretary, CNP

Gary Marx
Former Executive Director
Faith & Freedom Coalition

Belden Bell
Heritage Legacy Society

Lee A. Beaman
Chief Executive Officer
Beaman Automotive

Khadine Ritter
Eagle Forum of Ohio

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.
Founder and National Spokesman,
Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation

Kevin Freeman
NSIC Institute

Bob Thompson
Former Administrator,
The Weyrich Lunch Independent Consultant

Jerome R. Corsi
Washington Bureau Chief

Anthony Saliba
Saliba Venture Management

Bill Dallas
United in Purpose

Austin Ruse
President, C–Fam
(Center for Family & Human Rights)

Michael R. Long
State Chairman
NYS Conservative Party

Eunie Smith
Eagle Forum

The Honorable Mike Hill
Former Member
Florida State House

Anne Schlafly Cori
Eagle Forum

James O’Hickey
Nutrition Sales

Tim Wildmon
American Family Association

Bob Carlstrom
The Carlstrom Group, LLC

The Honorable Tim Goeglein
Vice President for External and Government
Relations, Focus on the Family


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