Written by Don Byrd

This week, President Donald J. Trump nominated Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas to be the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

This is a vitally important position, heading the Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom, which “has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy.” Most recently, Rabbi David Saperstein served in the role, from January 2015 until January 2017.

Via two Tweets, Rabbi Saperstein released this statement on Brownback’s nomination: 

While we strongly disagree on many issues, @govsambrownback & I share a passion for int’l #religiousfreedom. As a Senator, @govsambrownback helped pass the Int’l Religious Freedom Act. Has the potential to be a very effective Ambassador at Large

BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler issued this statement regarding Brownback’s nomination: 

“It is critical that this important post in the State Department be filled. Promoting religious freedom for all around the world is a mission that has garnered broad bipartisan support. While the Baptist Joint Committee does not take positions on appointments, we will be watching the process closely and look forward to working with Governor Brownback in this capacity, should he be confirmed.”

The Baptist Standard shares responses from many Baptist leaders to the news, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued this statement praising the nomination.

Reaction overall has been mixed. Some have praised the appointment while others have expressed concern based on some of Brownback’s actions as governor, including his decision to sign a 2012 bill that effectively banned Islamic law (despite some urging him to veto the bill, saying it was unnecessary and based on fear).

Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called Brownback an “ill-considered” appointment in a column that shares some troubling stories of occasions Brownback showed “hostility to the church-state wall” that protects religious freedom.

Gov. Brownback still faces confirmation by the Senate to serve as the international religious freedom ambassador. The date for his confirmation hearing has not yet been set. Stay tuned.