Q: Did Sen. Bernie Sanders say that Christianity is an insult to Muslims?
A: He didn’t say that. He criticized a statement made by a presidential nominee as Islamophobic.
In June 2017, Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized a presidential nominee’s statement that Muslims have a “deficient theology” and “stand condemned” because “they have rejected Jesus Christ.” Sanders said nothing about Christianity being an insult to Muslims.
The exchange between Sanders and Russell Vought — which happened during a hearing on Vought’s nomination to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget — has been twisted to make this claim: “Bernie Sanders Says Christianity Is An Insult To Muslims.”
That headline has been posted on partisan websites since at least November 2017, with periodic bursts of popularity when it is reposted and shared on social media. Recently, it has been reposted and shared by three websites that are registered to owners in Macedonia and Kosovo.
Facebook users flagged it as potentially false.
Here’s what actually happened:
Vought wrote an opinion piece for conservative commentator Erick Erickson’s website, The Resurgent, in January 2016. In it, he defended his alma mater, Wheaton College, for ousting a professor who had said in a Facebook post that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
At one point, Vought wrote: “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.”
That’s the part that Sanders called out, saying, “in my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic.”
This was their exchange during the hearing:
Sanders, June 7, 2017: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people, and that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for a publication called Resurgent. You wrote: “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 am a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and —
Sanders: Again, I apologize. Forgive me. We just do not have a lot of time. Do you believe that people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?
Vought: Again, Senator, I am a Christian, and I wrote that piece —
Sanders: Well, what does that say —
Vought [continuing]: In accordance with the statement of faith of Wheaton College.
Sanders: I understand that. I do not know how many Muslims there are in America. I really do not know, probably a couple million. Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned, too?
Vought: Senator, I am a Christian. I —
Sanders: I understand you are a Christian, but this country is made up 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 is how I should treat all individuals —
Sanders: And do you think your statement that you put into that publication, “They do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned,” do you think that is respectful of other religions?
Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly with regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.
Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.
And he did vote “no” on Vought’s confirmation in February. But, with the Senate in a 49-49 deadlock, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote and confirmed Vought to be the deputy director of the OMB.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.
United States Senate Committee on the Budget. Nomination Hearing for Deputy Director of White House Budget Office. 7 Jun 2017.
“Bernie Sanders Says Christianity Is An Insult To Muslims.” BlingNews.com. 27 Nov 2017.
Vought, Russell. “Wheaton College and the Preservation of Theological Clarity.” The Resurgent. 17 Jan 2016.
Wheaton College. Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Dr. Larycia Hawkins’ Administrative Leave from Wheaton College. 15 Jan 2016.
U.S. Government Publishing Office. NOMINATION OF RUSSELL T. VOUGHT, OF VIRGINIA, TO BE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGE. 7 Jun 2017
United States Senate. Vote summary on the nomination of Russell Vought as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. 28 Feb 2018.