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 TrumpWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Gov. Ron DeSantis more popular in Florida than Trump Sotomayor accuses Supreme Court of bias in favor of Trump administration 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 NelsonThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world Bottom Line MORE (Florida), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Democratic senators press Amazon over injury rates MORE (Wisconsin), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia Celebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act MORE (Pennsylvania), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowOn The Money: GAO to investigate Trump aid for farmers | Bloomberg calls for bolstering Dodd-Frank | Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes GAO launches investigation into Trump aid for farmers Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength MORE (Michigan), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world MORE (Indiana), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats criticize Medal of Freedom for Limbaugh as 'slap in the face' Kansas City, Kan., responds to Trump tweet: We root for the Chiefs, too Trump mocked for Super Bowl tweet confusing Missouri for Kansas MORE (Missouri), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash MORE (Montana), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSusan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE (North Dakota), and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Overnight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit 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 SmithDemocratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Trump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements 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.