Accessibility links

Trump Chooses Kansas Governor to Lead Religious Freedom Efforts


Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, right, talks to reporters Thursday, July 27, in Topeka, Kansas. President Donald Trump nominated Brownback to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

President Donald Trump chose the Republican governor of Kansas to lead American government support of religious freedom across the world.

If approved by the Senate, Governor Sam Brownback’s new position would be “ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.”

Brownback, like Trump, is a Republican.

Brownback, who is 60, talked about being selected for the religious freedom job at a news conference on Thursday.

"International religious freedom is going the wrong way," Brownback said. "There's more persecution, not less, that's taken place over the last 20 years."

On Twitter, he said, “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.”

Brownback was a U.S. senator in 1998 when he was a lead sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act. The bill was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

The legislation called on the U.S. government to help people persecuted in foreign countries because of their religious beliefs.

The law created the ambassador-at-large position for which Brownback has been nominated. It also requires yearly reports on the state of religious freedom across the world.

In 2016, the State Department reported a decrease in religious freedom from the year before. The report blamed a growing refugee crisis, political divisions and economic problems for the drop in religious freedom.

It reported barriers to religious freedom in Pakistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Angola, Bahrain and the Central African Republican.

In this file photo, Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, center, arrives for a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Vietnam's communist government has had difficult dealings with religious freedom.
In this file photo, Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, center, arrives for a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Vietnam's communist government has had difficult dealings with religious freedom.

When the Senate will take up the Brownback nomination has not yet been announced. If he is approved, Brownback will give up his job as Kansas governor. He would be replaced by the lieutenant governor, Jeff Colyer. Colyer is a doctor and, like Brownback, a Republican.

Brownback was elected governor in 2010, and later won passage of big cuts in Kansas taxes. But the tax cuts led to cuts in services. The state’s education system was hard hit.

In June, the Legislature brought back most of the taxes that were cut.

Susan Wagle is president of the Kansas Senate. She has disagreed with Brownback on budget and tax issues. She commented on Brownback’s decision to resign as governor and take a new job in Washington.

“This position will be a good fit for Governor Brownback, a staunch defender of religious freedom. I’m sure he will do a great job,” Wagle said.

Wagle called on the U.S. Senate to approve Brownback’s nomination quickly -- “so that we can get Kansas back on track with new leadership.”

I’m Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English based on reports by the Associated Press, Reuters and other sources. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page.

_______________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

persecute - v. to treat someone cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs

soul - n. the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever

challenge - n. issues that test the ability or strength needed to solve problems

staunch - adj. very devoted or loyal to a person, belief, or cause

on track - phrase. on the way to getting something done

Your opinion

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG