Written by Don Byrd
The U.S. Senate has confirmed Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) to be U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, a position last held by Rabbi David Saperstein. A tied 49-49 party line vote on Wednesday had to be broken by Vice President Mike Pence, the Washington Post reports.
The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty doesn’t take positions on appointments. BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler released the following statement after the confirmation:
Some of Gov. Brownback’s prior positions on issues of religious freedom for everyone are concerning, such as his praise for President Trump’s original travel ban that differentiated among refugees fleeing religious-based persecution. The prolonged nomination process and razor-thin margin on final passage reflect additional concerns that Gov. Brownback’s domestic policy positions may negatively impact his ability to serve in this diplomatic post.
We are encouraged by Gov. Brownback’s testimony that he would continue the work of Ambassador David Saperstein, and we look forward to working with Ambassador Brownback in his new role.
During his confirmation hearing, Brownback pledged not to stray from a strict religious liberty focus. He will take over an office that has been expanded during the Trump Administration. As part of last year’s State Department reorganization by Secretary Rex Tillerson, the role of the ambassador’s office was increased to assume the functions and staff of several other initiatives related to religion and the protection of religious minorities in different regions around the world.
For more, see the Baptist Standard’s coverage.