Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, confirmed January 24 as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, assumes the position at a time of increasing government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion.
The Senate deadlock over Brownback’s appointment was broken by Vice President Pence, who cast the deciding vote.
Former U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf, distinguished senior fellow with the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, helped enact the legislation 20 years ago that created this ambassadorship. He describes Brownback as “very much involved in human rights and religious freedom. He was always out in front. He and I were the first two members to go to Darfur during the genocide. He came back and he led the effort truly to declare what was happening there.”
Nate Lance, advocacy manager for International Christian Concern, feels Brownback’s experience as a governor and former U.S. senator “elevates this position, making the ambassadorship a stronger advocate for freedom of religion or belief.”
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed Gov. Brownback's confirmation. “The Senate’s confirmation of a new ambassador today could not have come soon enough,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “We are witnessing immense challenges to religious freedom around the globe. We need to utilize every resource available to confront these challenges, including the office of the ambassador-at-large. USCIRF looks forward to working with Ambassador Brownback in advancing the U.S. government’s promotion of international religious freedom.”
While in the Senate, Gov. Brownback served as co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. He was a key sponsor of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act that established USCIRF and the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, which he will now lead.
“USCIRF is eager to work closely with Gov. Brownback in his new role as ambassador-at-large and ex officio member of the Commission,” said Chairman Mark.