WASHINGTON — For advocates of religious freedom, President Trump’s appointment of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to be Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom is a much-needed jolt from an administration that they feel has been otherwise sluggish to act on critical protections for people of faith.
If confirmed, Brownback will be be the U.S. government’s representative on religious freedom abroad. He also has the task of advocating within the State Department for a greater focus on the issue, even at times when it may not run in lockstep with economic or military interests.
“You need somebody who feels it in his bones and David Saperstein really did feel it in his bones and so does Sam Brownback, this is why I’m grateful to president Trump, of whom I’ve been a ferocious critic,” Robert George said. Rabbi David Saperstein held the ambassador-at-large position most recently during the Obama administration.
On the campaign trail Trump had promised that the “first priority of my administration will be to preserve and protect our religious liberty.” Trump was able to get conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the bench, a move which religious freedom advocates celebrated.
Early in his presidency Trump was reportedly considering an executive order that would scale back Obama-era protections for gays and lesbians, and religious freedom advocates pressed him to move forward. But Trump ultimately signed a version that critics — including George — felt didn’t go nearly far enough.
It was “so watered down in the end that when it was issued it had no practical significance that I could see,” said George, who was chairman of the independent U.S. Commission on International…