State Dept. Has a Captive Audience in Jailed Pastor Andrew Brunson

For 50-year-old pastor Andrew Brunson, the last year and a half have been like a bad dream. The North Carolina missionary and his family had built a life in Turkey, only to watch government officials tear it all apart. After 23 years of serving the Mediterranean people, he’s been thrown behind bars — left to wonder if he’ll ever see America, or his family, again.

For Brunson, who’d devoted two decades to pastoring a church in Izmir, the charges were almost unbelievable. Accused of spying, conspiracy, and terrorism, the Black Mountain native was taken to prison, where he spiraled into depression. “The start was very, very difficult,” his daughter tells reporters. Losing hope — and more than 50 pounds — Brunson had no choice but to wait for American officials to intervene. Days ticked by, then months. Andrew missed his daughter’s wedding and another’s graduation.

Back on American soil, Norine desperately worked for her husband’s freedom — a goal that seems much more realistic under this White House. Last year, the Brunsons had a major breakthrough in their case when then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed to meet with Norine, and then later when U.S. officials — including 78 members of Congress — personally called for Andrew’s release. Although local authorities haven’t been able to produce a scrap of evidence tying the Brunsons to a terrorist organization, he still faces up to 35 years in a Turkish jail. The concern, insiders say, is that authorities will try to keep Brunson in the country to use as a bargaining chip with the president.

In the trial that started today, Brunson told the court, “I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations. I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity. I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” When Andrew did take the stand, he was almost certainly comforted by the presence of two key U.S. leaders: Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and home state Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Both men flew to Turkey to attend the trial and add to the growing international pressure for Brunson’s release.

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Days earlier, a man who could be the most instrumental player in Andrew’s release was sitting in a hearing of his own. Unfortunately for Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, he was being interrogated — not on his ideas for helping prisoners like this pastor — but about his views on sexuality. On the eve of America’s targeted missile strike on Syria, Senator Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) biggest concern wasn’t the threats our nation is facing, but whether Pompeo shared his radical LGBT agenda. To his credit, Mike stood his ground, refusing to let the Democrats’ new litmus test for public service rattle him.

Of course, conservatives have watched this new McCarthyism evolve in confirmation hearings from Russell Vought to Amy Barrett. We’ve seen our own prophecies about the fallout over same-sex marriage come true in every public servant who’s marginalized for mainstream views. The only difference in the Left’s hostility is that now, Democrats are done hiding it. As Daniel Davis points out in the Daily Signal:

In the world of Cory Booker, there is no place for Mike Pompeo — except perhaps, in a re-education class. Certainly not in the Cabinet. This sort of social ostracization and occupational discrimination was coming, but liberals long denied it. They assured us that same-sex marriage would make the world more tolerant, that conservative holdouts would have nothing to fear, and that the progressive future would have a place for everyone… These liberals either failed to see just how coercive their movement would become, or they knew better and were just placating America while cultural changes gained steam — and then jumped on board the train.

Even more amazingly, Pompeo’s views are completely mainstream. In fact, he was such a consensus choice for CIA director last year that more than a dozen Democrats voted for him. Now, those same people, like Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), are using their animus as an excuse to pull the rug out from an excellent candidate that even the Washington Post urges the Senate to confirm. “I did vote him for CIA director,” Kaine said over the weekend. “He has an intel background that I thought suited him for the position. But look,” he went on. “We have a president that is anti-diplomacy. And I worry that Mike Pompeo has shown the same tendency to oppose diplomacy. He was not just against the Iran deal, when he was a House member, but he spoke about the relative ease of wiping out Iran’s nuclear capacity with a bombing run.”

Obviously, Democrats won’t be satisfied until the president’s nominees either recant their faith or insist on having none at all. It’s time for the Left to end its campaign of intolerance. If you haven’t already, join the 25,000 Americans who’ve signed our petition to the U.S. Senate, protesting the treatment of Christians like Mike Pompeo.

As FRC’s Travis Weber argues in his new op-ed for the Hill, “In his long history of public service, Mike Pompeo has been scrupulous to treat every human being with dignity and respect. His critics should seek to understand this, instead of resorting to personal attacks. They would find that he is a competent and principled person who is well-qualified to fill the role of our chief diplomat, and will seek to unite and serve all of us in representing our common interests on the world stage.”

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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