The U.S. Senate this week confirmed the nomination of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback for the post of U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, who had previously encouraged the White House to move quickly to fill this pivotal position, welcomed the vote. “Governor Brownback is a tried and true hero in the defense of the dignity of every person, including every individual’s inalienable right to religious freedom,” said Johnson. “President Trump made an excellent choice as Sam Brownback not only has the commitment, but also the skill and the will to advance respect for our nation’s first freedom at the highest levels abroad.”
Among others welcoming Brownback’s confirmation was former Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who authored the 1998 law establishing the International Religious Freedom Office at the U.S. State Department. Calling international religious freedom “fundamental to our identity as Americans and also essential to our national security,” Wolf added, “In Sam Brownback, we have a leader who not only understands the intricacies of Capitol Hill, he has a heart and the demonstrated passion for the mission of this office.”
The confirmation process was sadly not without its challenges. In the past, there has been bipartisan comity on the issue of international religious freedom and this particular post. However, Senate Democrats, including those who spoke kindly about Brownback’s qualifications, put up speedbumps to his confirmation in the Foreign Relations Committee and on the Senate Floor. During the committee proceedings last fall, some senators, including Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), posed questions related to domestic religious freedom battles connected to marriage, sexuality, and abortion debates. Moreover, in connection with this week’s floor vote, groups like Planned Parenthood and Human Rights Campaign launched blistering attacks against the governor. Ultimately, because of two GOP absences, Vice President Mike Pence was needed to break a tie vote after all 49 Democrats joined hands in opposition to Brownback’s nomination.
Following the vote, Pence tweeted that he was proud to vote for Brownback, calling him “a principled man of faith who will help the Trump Admin advance support for persecuted religious groups around the world.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: January 26, 2018