Brownback OK'd as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters


Senate has confirmed Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Catholic, to be the new U.S.
ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in the U.S. Department
of State.

Nominated to the post in
July by President Donald Trump, Brownback was confirmed Jan. 24. The Senate vote
was 49-49 and Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote. On Jan. 25,
Brownback announced he will resign the office of governor Jan. 31.

“It has been a great
honor to serve Kansans as their governor since 2011 and prior to that as W.S. senator
and congressman,” Brownback wrote in a letter to Kansas Secretary of State Kris
W. Kobach in Topeka. “As a lifelong Kansan, I have been privileged to serve and represent
my fellow citizens for most of my adult life.”

He said he looks forward
to continuing his public service in a new role. “Wherever my duties may take
me, my Kansas values and experience will always travel with me,” he said.

Thomas Farr, president of
the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, welcomed the Senate’s
confirmation of the Republican governor for the post.

Brownback’s deep experience, and his commitment to religious freedom for all
people, will help ensure American leadership in the vital work of reducing
global religious persecution,” Farr said in a statement. “We believe he will
make U.S. religious freedom policy an integral part of America’s national
security strategy.”

He noted “a host of
daunting challenges and threats to stability and security” that will face the
new ambassador.

“Rising levels of global
religious persecution are being fueled by violent religious extremism,
oppressive government policies, and aggressively anti-religious secularism,”
Farr stated. “Millions are suffering terrible depredations as a result. Nations
and economies are being destabilized by the absence of religious freedom.”

He called Brownback “the
right choice to lead U.S. policy in addressing this global crisis.”

“In his 16 years as a congressman
and U.S. senator, Brownback built a reputation as a steadfast advocate for
religious freedom,” he said. “He was one of the key supporters of the landmark
International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which established in law the
promotion of religious freedom as an element of U.S. foreign policy. The act
also created the ambassadorship Brownback now holds.”

Brownback, 62, was
elected the 46th governor of Kansas in November 2010 and took office in January
2011. He won re-election in November 2016. Before that, he served in the U.S.
Senate after winning a special election in 1996 for the seat previously held by
Bob Dole, who was the Republican presidential candidate that year.

Brownback won the
following two regular elections for Senate, serving until 2011. He ran for U.S. president
in 2008 but ended his campaign before the primaries; he endorsed Sen. John
McCain, R-Arizona, who eventually won the GOP presidential nomination.

As a senator, Brownback
was a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee,
the Joint Economic Committee, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in
Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, which he at one time chaired.

The Helsinki Commission
monitors compliance with international agreements reached in cooperation with
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In 2000, Brownback and Congressman
Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, led the effort to enact the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act. President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law in
October 2000.

Before serving in the
Senate, Brownback was elected to the U.S. House in 1994. Prior to that he was
secretary of the Kansas Board of Agriculture; named to the post in 1986, he was
the youngest secretary in state history.

The current chairman of
the Helsinki Commission, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, praised the
choice of Brownback, saying he is “exactly the man we need out there,
everywhere, doing this work, right now” on religious freedom issues.

“Religious freedom is the
first freedom, and defending the persecuted is vital to our national identity
and national security,” he said in a statement. “Radical Islamist terrorists
target and kill Christians and people of other faiths to advance their evil
ideology, recruiting, and propaganda. A robust defense of religious freedom is
vital to defeating them.”

Brownback, and his wife,
Mary, have been married for over 30 years. He calls his wife “the glue that
holds our family together.” The Brownbacks have five children — Abby, Andy,
Liz, Mark and Jenna.

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