Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed international religious freedom challenges on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Thursday. He addressed topics ranging from American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is imprisoned in Turkey, to the State Department’s upcoming Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.
"We believe religious freedom is central to the world and to, frankly, America’s place in the world," Pompeo said. "We make it a real priority."
Pompeo emphasized that the administration is working hard to bring Brunson home. "Pastor Brunson in particular has been a priority of mine since even before I had this current role," he said. "The entire administration is focused on getting his return."
Brunson is a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina who has been detained in Turkey for almost two years on charges of espionage and colluding with terrorist organizations. He served as the pastor of a small congregation in Turkey for over two decades before being arrested after the 2016 coup attempt.
On Wednesday, a Turkish court rejected appeals from President Donald Trump and Pompeo for Brunson's release. Philip Kosnett, the U.S. Embassy chargé d'affaires in Turkey, said he does not "believe there is any indication that Pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity."
Pompeo also talked about next week’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The ministerial will bring together foreign ministers, religious leaders, and other stakeholders to discuss the issue of international religious freedom and identity ways to increase respect for religious liberty.
"We’re going to talk about how religious freedom fits into a democratic society, how it makes sense for each country, how it can improve economies in the world by having this religious freedom, by allowing all persons of every faith – or those who have no faith – to have the freedom to worship or choose not to in the way that they prefer," Pompeo said.