President Donald Trump has selected Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R.) to serve as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a position that would have him speak for oppressed religious groups around the world.
Brownback became a leader on human rights when he was in the U.S. Senate, during which time he visited Darfur, Sudan, and reported back that the region was seeing a genocide. Former Virginia congressman Frank Wolf, who helped create the ambassadorship for religious freedom, said that Brownback was a great choice.
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"This job is really made for Sam," Wolf told the Kansas City Star. "On all these issues he's been there before almost anybody else."
Brownback would report to the State Department and take the lead on issues of international religious freedom. He said he was honored to receive the appointment.
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
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore quickly tweeted his support of Brownback when the news broke.
When in Sen, @govsambrownback was heroic on Darfur/Sudan crises, AIDS in Africa, persecuted religious minorities. He'll be great Ambassador.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) July 26, 2017
"Senator Brownback will, I sincerely hope, see this position as contributing to the national security of the United States," said Tom Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute. "Advancing religious freedom in our foreign policy will help Christians and other religious minorities around the world who are suffering persecution."
He and Moore both called for the Senate to swiftly confirm Brownback.
Not everyone supports Brownback's appointment, however. LGBT rights group Equality Kansas said that his support for religious freedom has been a cover for bigotry.
"Governor Brownback is unsuited to represent American values of freedom, liberty, and justice, whether at home or abroad," said the group's executive director, Tom Witt. "His goal is not to use religion as a way to expand freedom, but to use a narrow, bigoted interpretation of religion to deny freedom to his fellow citizens."
Brownback's popularity as a governor has also been waning. The mostly Republican legislature stopped him from cutting taxes when they overrode his veto in June, and his approval ratings have been among the lowest for governors in the country.
Those issues are not likely to affect Brownback's appointment. Wolf does not doubt that he will be confirmed and said, "Sam was well liked and well thought of by members on both sides of the aisle."
If he is confirmed, Brownback would lead an office of around 30 and report directly to the secretary of state.
"Sam will be Tillerson's right hand on these issues, and I think Sam will complement Tillerson very well," Wolf said.