In a statement released by the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary yesterday, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Kansas Governor Sam Brownback as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom at the Department of State:
Mr. Brownback has been Governor of Kansas since 2011. Previously, he served as a U.S. Senator (1996-2011) and a U.S. Representative in the House of Representatives (1995-1996) from Kansas. While a member of the Senate, he worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. He also served as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture (1986-1993) and was a White House Fellow in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (1990-1991). Mr. Brownback was a private attorney in Kansas and taught agricultural law at Kansas State University. He co-authored two books on the subject. He earned a B.S. from Kansas State University and a J.D. from the University of Kansas. He and his wife Mary have five children.
Following news of his appointment, Brownback tweeted that he was “honored” to be chosen for the role:
Religious Freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause. -SDB
— Sam Brownback (@govsambrownback) July 27, 2017
Pending confirmation by the Senate, Brownback will take charge of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, which describes its mission as “promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy.” It sets forth a four-point plan to accomplish this goal:
- Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries;
- Assist emerging democracies in implementing freedom of religion and conscience;
- Assist religious and human rights NGOs in promoting religious freedom;
- Identify and denounce regimes that are severe persecutors on the basis of religious belief.
Religious freedom leaders are confident that Brownback is well-suited to serve in this capacity. The former US Senator was one of only three members of Congress to receive a perfect score on the International Religious Freedom Scorecard during the first two years of the Obama presidency. A convert to Catholicism, Brownback served on Trump’s presidential campaign’s Catholic advisory group.
Frank Wolf, a former congressman from Virginia who drafted the bill that created the ambassadorship for religious freedom in 1998, applauded Trump’s pick which he feels “ought to send a message around the world that America cares very very deeply” about religious freedom:
I think it’s a great appointment. Sam is such a good guy. This job is really made for Sam. On all these issues he’s been there before almost anybody else.
Senior policy advisor at The Catholic Association, Maureen Ferguson, also praised Brownback’s qualification for the role:
As a U.S. Senator, Brownback was a passionate defender of the rights of all people to worship freely, and courageously confronted offenses against human dignity in trouble spots such as North Korea, Iraq, China, Sudan, Vietnam, and Egypt.
Chris Seiple, president emeritus at The Institute for Global Engagement, lauded Brownback for being “a man of convicted compassion and courteous candor who—as a function of his own deeply held Christian beliefs—will work tirelessly for people of all faiths and none.”
Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, also reacted favorably to the announcement of Brownback’s nomination:
This ambassadorship is a key piece in our nation’s responsibility to act on behalf of the persecuted around the world; one that requires a seasoned, respected leader who brings conviction and gravity to the work of this crucial post. Governor Brownback is exactly this kind of leader. He has my prayers and pledge of full cooperation, and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead. I urge the Senate to confirm Governor Brownback without delay.
As for Brownback’s confirmation, Wolf believes it will happen with little trouble since “Sam was well liked and well thought of by members on both sides of the aisle.”
Congratulations to President Trump on a fantastic pick for such an important role.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore