Can Brownback Be the Credible Face of America’s Promotion of Religious Freedom?

Can Brownback Be the Credible Face of America’s Promotion of Religious Freedom?
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback during a news conference following his nomination to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Topeka, Kan., July 27, 2017 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

Religious freedom occupies a complicated place in the halls of U.S. diplomacy. Congress imposed the Office of International Religious Freedom on the State Department in 1998 due to concerns that the Clinton administration was failing to adequately address the plight of religious communities around the world, specifically Christian communities. Because of constitutional restrictions, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom must walk a fine line between being a forceful advocate for religious groups, while being careful not to support one particular religion over any others.

In late July, President Donald Trump selected Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a staunch social conservative, to be the new ambassador for international religious freedom. In accepting the nomination, Brownback tweeted: “Religious freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause.”

The selection of Brownback is a troubling one. He has been front and center in America’s culture wars, his tenure as Kansas governor defined by one controversy after another. Brownback signed a religious freedom bill that critics maintained would permit discrimination against LGBT students and other minority groups at public universities. He slashed education funding so severely that the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that public education spending was “unconstitutionally low.” He made Kansas the first state to withdraw from a federal refugee program, citing unfounded “security risks.” Unsurprisingly, Brownback ranks as one of the least popular governors in the country, with a disapproval rating hovering around 66 percent.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review