With vote against Brownback, Democrats abandon religious freedom

With vote against Brownback, Democrats abandon religious freedom
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While religious freedom has become a hot issue in the United States in recent years, it’s been an issue overseas for much longer — and has historically been a bipartisan issue.

Traditionally, Republicans and Democrats have been able to come together in protection of this human right, whether concerning Yezidis and Christians in the Middle East, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, or Jews in France. Just over a year ago, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which among other things elevated the role of the United States’ ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.

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Yet with the confirmation vote on former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to fill that very role, this consensus appears to have broken. Not one of 49 Senate Democrats voted for the man who was a former colleague to some, and Vice President Pence had to be called in to break the tie.

This was a vote for someone who, as a senator, worked to defend those suffering under the North Korean dictatorship, fought for the Baha’i persecuted in Iran, defended the Roma minority in Romania, and spoke out against an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in Russia.

Brownback also raised awareness of the suffering in places like Uganda, and strove to declare as genocide the actions of the Sudanese government against Muslims in Darfur, demanding the Sudanese government end its practices of slavery and attacks on civilians.

His strong stances drew praise across party lines, from those like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and his public plea that the United States address the Sudan crisis was even joined by none other than then-Sen. Obama.

Just last year, President Obama’s ambassador-at-large, David Saperstein, said Brownback was “a very strong appointment” and “knows the issue (of religious freedom) very well.” In addition, many of the senators who voted against him had worked with him and knew of his many efforts.

So what happened? The Senate Democrats could be exhibiting a juvenile desire to flatly oppose anything President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE does — why not oppose another one of his nominees? More likely, however, due to lobbying by LGBT groups who are fine with throwing the persecuted overboard to advance their agenda, these Democrats have caved and abandoned their long-held position on religious freedom.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) heavily lobbied senators, writing that Brownback has “conflated ‘religious freedom’ with a license to discriminate.” Yet, as expected, HRC chose to remain blind to Brownback’s actual record on the issue, and its letter to senators failed to mention anything regarding Brownback’s long history of strong stances for international religious freedom.

One may expect the HRC to not give a hoot about the human right of religious freedom, but the senators who used to stand up for it should know better. Sen. Menendez (D-N.J.) even claimed he was concerned Brownback would only protect Christians if confirmed for the job. They served in the Senate together, and Menendez must know Brownback’s work. Why would he lie or mislead the public now? There is no excuse.

For every Senate Democrat to vote against a former colleague with a distinguished record of defending religious freedom for those all of faiths around the world should be an outrage, and voters can make it one. The Senate Democrats up for reelection who voted against Brownback should have to answer for their abandonment of North Koreans to prison camps, the Rohingya to mass murder, and Middle East Christians to genocide. Only then will we regain the consensus which we once held, and should continue to hold, proclaiming that the United States is a beacon for protecting the human right of religious freedom worldwide.

There are 26 senators up for re-election who are Democrats (or caucus with Democrats). They all should be forced to answer why they have abandoned the persecuted through their votes on Brownback.

Ten of those up for re-election are from states that President Trump won: Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonElection security bill picks up new support in Senate Senators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds MORE (Florida), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds MORE (Wisconsin), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy Manufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Congress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools MORE (Pennsylvania), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowLobbying world The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Dem senator: Kavanaugh sides with 'wealthiest special interests' MORE (Michigan), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Fed chief lays out risks of trade war MORE (Indiana), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (Missouri), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee On The Money: Trump rips Fed over rate hikes | Dems fume as consumer agency pick refuses to discuss border policy | Senate panel clears Trump IRS nominee MORE (Montana), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds MORE (North Dakota), and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (West Virginia). The last five are in states that Trump won by at least 18 points. There are other close races like that of Tina SmithTina Flint SmithCVS Health CEO 'surprised' by Azar's comments on drug prices Overnight Health Care: Kentucky gov cancels Medicaid dental, vision benefits | Collins voices skepticism court will overturn Roe v. Wade | Dems press 'middlemen' on drug costs Pair of Dem senators probe drug pricing 'middlemen,' distributors over high costs MORE (Minnesota).

Voters in those states should remember that their Senators have turned their back on the priority of religious freedom and abandoned religious dissidents in China, religious minorities in Iran, and slaughtered Rohingya in Myanmar. These same voters should ask themselves if that’s what they want in their senators.

Just the other day, it was reported that Muslim Rohingya who were victims of mass slaughter in one rural area had their faces burned away by acid in an attempt by the perpetrators to hide their actions. Sam Brownback is ready to address horrific religious persecution like this, yet Senate Democrats tried to prevent him from doing so. They have no excuse.

Travis Weber, Esq. is director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council Action.