President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback as ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
Brownback is currently the governor of Kansas. He has also served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. While a member of the Senate, he worked actively on the issue of religious freedom. In fact, he was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, a law that created the position he will now fill.
It is not clear when Brownback will assume the post. He must be approved by Congress, and that confirmation is not likely to take place until Congress returns after its August break. After a brief campaign for president in 2008, Brownback was first elected governor in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. He is prohibited by term limits from seeking a third term. He leaves his home state a controversial figure, as some of the conservative economic reforms he instituted, including dramatic tax cuts, have been extremely unpopular among liberals and the media in the state.
But Brownback’s willingness to take abstract ideas and turn them into real policy initiatives has given him national stature among conservatives. So conservatives, Republicans, and religious liberty advocates have greeted the news of Brownback’s appointment with approval. A group of evangelical leaders including James Dobson, Greg Laurie, and David Jeremiah issued a statement late Wednesday praising the choice.
Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who has made international religious liberty a priority, stated: “I applaud the President for nominating an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2017 report claims that numerous countries, including China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, among others, continue to imprison, torture and persecute religious minority communities, including Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Buddhists. As anti-religious freedom regimes expand around the world, the United States should clearly speak out for human rights, including religious liberty. According to the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, five billion people around the world face religious persecution and one-third live in places where religious freedom is severely restricted.”
John Hanford held the Ambassador-at-Large position from 2002 to 2009. He told WORLD that Brownback is “someone of real prominence who has a lot of professional experience in dealing with challenges that you would find at a place like the State Department. There’s always the realization that he would have no hesitance picking up the phone and calling people at the White House or even on the Hill.”
Image courtesy of freedom007 at iStock by Getty Images. Illustration designed by Heidi Allums.