The day after tomorrow, Sam Brownback (pictured here) will resign as governor of Kansas and officially become the U.S. ambassador at-large for international religious freedom, which means he'll head the U.S. State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom.
The question is whether he will use this excellent opportunity to challenge world leaders to protect and preserve religious freedom for people everywhere, as he should, or whether he'll adopt a narrow approach to the job that would place most of the emphasis on advocating positions most in harmony with people who call themselves religiously conservative.
(I spoke to KMBC-TV reporter Micheal Mahoney about this for a piece that aired the last Thursday evening, but there wasn't enough time to make some of the points I want to make here.)
We can hope that he'll turn out to be a vibrant voice who speaks on behalf of the millions of people around the world whose governments (and, well, circumstances) crush their religious freedoms. These include people of every faith, as you can see if you read in some detail the annual reports from the office Brownback will lead and from the annual reports of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a separate quasi-government agency.
Those reports provide chapter and verse about how this foundational human right of religious freedom gets violated every day somewhere around the world -- and often in many places.
The people whose rights are being violated need a strong voice to defend them and to defend the very idea that all people should be free to follow whatever religion (or none) they choose.
As governor, Brownback proved himself to be a narrow ideologue, imagining that one particular (discredited) economic approach would benefit everyone. Even when this economic "experiment," as he called it, ruined the state financially, he refused to acknowledge his error and continued to march down a destructive path.
If he adopts a similar approach in his ambassador job, the American people -- and the people of the world -- will be badly served.
Perhaps Brownback will be moved to be a little modest about his mandate when he remembers that, to break a tie, Vice President Mike Pence had to cast two votes just to get Brownback approved by the U.S. Senate. That said, I agree with the author of this piece when he argues that Brownback should have had more votes for approval from Democrats, whose partisanship on this matter will tend to make the religious liberty office more political in the future. We don't need that.
So let's give Brownback a chance here, but let's monitor his work closely -- praising him when he stands up for religious liberty for all people around the world and calling him out when and if he uses this office to advance a personal social agenda. And, by the way, he could show that he's off on the right foot by taking public notice of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which starts Thursday. More on that here tomorrow.
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TIME TO SWITCH INVESTIGATIONS?
A new book, discussed here, is rooted in the reality that millions of Americans think God made Donald Trump president. So it wasn't Russia? Has anyone told Robert Mueller about this?
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P.S.: My latest Flatland column -- about gay clergy in KC -- now is online here.