Religious Liberty a Foreign Concept at Brownback Hearing
Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Governor Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) to be the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, a job then-Senator Brownback was pivotal in creating in 1998 to address religious persecution and genocide around the world. Despite the purpose of the post being to advocate for religious liberty broadly, Governor Brownback noted that some on the Committee focused on other issues.
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he was concerned because Governor Brownback rolled back an executive order in Kansas that provided extra privileges for state employees based on sexual orientation. Governor Brownback replied he didn’t think it was the role of the executive branch to provide such privileges when the legislature did not pass a law to do so. Senator Kaine continuously drilled down on Governor Brownback, and even asked Governor Brownback if he was aware that there are countries where people who identify as LGBT are criminalized because of their sexual orientation. Senator Kaine also asked whether Governor Brownback thinks there is a circumstance where religious freedom can justify criminalizing people because of their LGBT status. Governor Brownback replied that he did not know what that justification would be.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) also attempted to take Governor Brownback down a few rabbit holes, asking whether it is okay to deny women access to abortion in the name of religious freedom. Governor Brownback replied that the Ambassador for Religious Freedom should stay in the lane of religious freedom without getting in the middle of the abortion debate, or other debates, that cannot even gain consensus in the United States. Shaheen then asked Brownback if he would support human rights efforts for LGBT persons, to which Governor Brownback replied that he would focus on religious liberty.
While some senators on the Foreign Relations Committee attempted to guide Governor Brownback off-track, he focused on religious freedom around the world noting the importance of the role of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom because, as he said, being ineffective on religious freedom means we will see violence grow across the world.
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