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Senator Lankford Applauds Senate Confirmation of Gov. Brownback as International Religious Freedom Ambassador

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded the confirmation of Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) to be the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. The Office of International Religious Freedom – led by the Ambassador-at-Large– is charged with the promotion of religious freedom as a core objective of US foreign policy.   

“I’m pleased that the Senate voted today to confirm Governor Sam Brownback as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department,” said Lankford. “The violation of the basic human right of religious freedom is under attack all around the world, and religious minorities are being oppressed and killed. We have witnessed the genocide of Christians, Yezidis, and Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria at the hand of ISIS. We have seen an attempted ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. American citizens, like Dr. Andrew Brunson, have been unjustly detained in prisons around the world.  

“The United States must not become numb to these violations of a fundamental human right. Instead, we must act. Confirmation of Sam Brownback as the Ambassador-at-Large sends a message to the world that religious freedom is a priority of the United States government. It is an important first step, but we cannot stop there. Religious freedom must be an integral part of our overall national security and we must use all tools available to condemn acts of religious persecution. We must condemn blasphemy laws; we must ensure the inclusion of religious freedom in negotiations with our trade partners, and we must develop better strategies to secure the release of Americans abroad. As a world leader for freedom and the protection of basic human rights, the United States should take every opportunity to advocate for people – including Americans here at home –  to think, believe, and act according to their religious belief whether they belong to a minority or majority religion in their nation.”

The confirmation of this position has been a priority for Lankford. On April 13, 2017, Lankford sent a letter to the President to encourage the administration to take steps to protect international religious freedom by hiring an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. In December 2016, President Obama signed the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, a bill co-sponsored by Lankford, to strengthen the US’ effort to combat persecution of religious minorities. In 2015, Lankford successfully secured a Trade Promotion Authority amendment that promotes international religious freedom in our trade negotiations.

The 2017 report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found that “The state of affairs for international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations. The blatant assaults have become so frightening—attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship—that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated. Many observers have become numb to violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”  

Brownback has been Governor of Kansas since 2011. Previously, he served as a US Senator (1996-2011) and a Representative in the House of Representatives (1995-1996) from Kansas. While a member of the Senate, he worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.