Senate Dems delay Brownback confirmation, gamble people's lives

Senate Dems delay Brownback confirmation, gamble people's lives
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Politics. It is the only word to describe delay on the full senate vote to confirm Gov. Sam Brownback as ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom (IRF). But petty politicking has no place where fundamental human rights are at stake. It is time for the senate to do its job and confirm the eminently qualified Brownback.

On October 26, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved Gov. Brownback's nomination. The normal course of business is the unanimous consent of the full senate, but Democratic Party leadership plans to delay and insist on a floor vote to confirm Brownback. The Senate's responsibility to confirm the IRF ambassadorship should not be an occasion for continued obstructionism by politicians at odds with the president. Those persecuted throughout the world because of their faith deserve more.

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Since its inception, the United States has understood the importance of religious freedom and the benefits of a pluralistic society. International religious freedom is not a “Republican” or “Democrat” issue. It is an American issue. Democrats dragging their feet over who will spearhead U.S. foreign policy on such a core American value has grave consequences. 

Religious minorities throughout the world suffer violent persecution and displacement. The Pew Research Center found that almost 3-out-of-4 people in the world live in countries with high or very high restriction on or outright hostility to religion. The most egregious hostility has inspired genocide at the hands of ISIS. As the State Department's most recent International Religious Freedom Report observes:

"ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for race, kidnapping, enslavement, and death. ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled. ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities."     

To be effective, U.S. advocacy of international religious freedom and our defense of those persecuted because of their faith need the right people in charge. Brownback adds experience, stature and personal commitment to our protection and promotion of religious freedom.     

While in the Senate, Brownback served for eight years on the Senate Committee for Foreign Relations.  He was among the first voices to speak out against the atrocities committed against Christians in the Sudan and was successful in sponsoring and pushing through the passage of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act

In 2009, then-Sen. Brownback co-sponsored a resolution condemning the government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of the Baha'i minority in Iran and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights. In addition to Brownback's defense of peoples of all faiths, he has experience to address some of the unique horrors facing many of them. Having played an instrumental role in enacting the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, he understands this complex form of modern-day slavery that often "trades" in victims of religious persecution.         

Encouraging the international community to embrace religious pluralism promotes one of our greatest rights — the right to believe (or not) without governmental interference or third party interference or persecution.  Politics should not get in the way of America's leadership in promoting international religious freedom. We urge the senate to promptly confirm Governor Brownback as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.   

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation.