It is deeply ironic that a Senate confirmation hearing for Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom should attack … religious freedom.
It is also very disturbing.
President Trump has nominated Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to become the next Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
When he finally came up for a confirmation hearing Oct. 4, he was grilled by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. Tim Kane, a Democrat from Virginia, said he was concerned with Brownback rolling back extra privileges for state employees based on sexual orientation.
Brownback replied he didn’t think it was the role of the executive branch to provide such privileges when the legislature did not pass a law to do so.
It was a “non-issue” question that was merely used to skewer Brownback’s Christianity.
Kane also asked him if he thinks there is a circumstance where religious freedom can justify criminalizing people because of their LGBT status.
Brownback replied he didn’t know what that justification would be.
The assault on his “religion” continued with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire. She asked whether it is okay to deny women access to abortion in the name of religious freedom.
Brownback replied the ambassador should stick with religious freedom without getting in the middle of the abortion debate, or other debates, that cannot even gain consensus in the United States.
Brownback said he would focus on religious liberty, even though senators tried to take him off track.
He focused on religious freedom, and that being ineffective on religious freedom would lead to more violence around the world.
Senate members didn’t ask Brownback how he would promote religious freedom across the globe. They weren’t interested in what he would do to bring religious issues to the attention of the President.
They wanted to know how he stood on abortion and homosexual rights.
So, why is this an important position?
As part of the State Department, Brownback would be promoting religious freedom as a foreign policy objective.
Brownback wrote on Twitter: “Religious freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul.”
Brownback is a great choice for bringing to light and fighting persecution against Christians and other religious minorities in India, Russia Turkey, areas of the Middle East, the Philippines, Burma, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.
Christians are harassed in more countries than any other religious group.
His position transcends the debate over abortion and LGBT rights.
Many religions are being persecuted. The Pew Research Center said that while 78 percent of Christians in 2015 lived in places where Christians were harassed, 99 percent of Jews and Hindus, and 97 percent of Muslims, lived in countries where members of their groups were harassed.
Here are 12 things you need to know about Brownback and the ambassadorship:
- The position was established by the International Freedom Act of 1998.
- The ambassador-at-large must meet with foreign religious and political leaders to craft programs for safeguarding religious freedom and oversee the Office of Religious Freedom within the State Department. The office describes its mission as promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy.
- The office monitors religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommends and implements policies in respective regions or countries, and develops programs to promote religious freedoms.
- Annually, the office releases a report on the state of religious freedom worldwide.
- The office can list nations as “Countries of Particular Concern” for violations of religious freedom, which could result in economic sanctions from the U.S.
- The ambassador will report directly to the Secretary of State.
- Rate levels of religious persecution among “entities of particular concern.” It also allows the labeling of non-government entities, such as terrorist groups, as violators of religious freedom.
- Under a beefed-up provision in the 1998 religious freedom law, the ambassador will oversee a “designated persons list” of individuals who severely violate the religious freedom of others.
- During his tenure in the Senate, Brownback was a determined advocate for religious freedom. In 2010, he proposed a resolution condemning Iran’s persecution of religious minorities.
- He was one of only three members of Congress to receive a perfect score on the International Religious Freedom Scorecard.
- Protecting religious freedom is a vital part of America’s efforts to foster liberty abroad. It demands speaking on behalf of oppressed religious minorities around the world. Brownbackhas already shown that he will speak out against persecution and implement robust responses to genocide.
- He is a strong protector of Christians, noting that “the persecution of Christians and rise of religious intolerance are often lead indicators of regions and countries tipping into chaos.”
I believe Brownback is an awesome choice for a job in a world where religious freedom is deteriorating.
As the 2017 report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted: “The blatant assaults have become so frightening – attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship – that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated.”
Brownback will give a voice to the persecuted.
Pray for his quick confirmation and powerful impact in the coming years.
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