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 TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary 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 Nelson Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon MORE (Florida), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden: I'll have a running mate picked next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided GOP to unveil COVID-19 bill Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE (Wisconsin), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Fred Upton says it is 'tragic' to see Americans reject masks, social distancing; Russia claims it will approve COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August People with disabilities see huge job losses; will pandemic roll back ADA gains? The Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (Pennsylvania), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Democrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list MORE (Michigan), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (Indiana), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties MORE (Missouri), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse Overnight Defense: Senate poised to pass defense bill with requirement to change Confederate base names | Key senator backs Germany drawdown | Space Force chooses 'semper supra' as motto Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee MORE (Montana), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (North Dakota), and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project Trump signs major conservation bill into law Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response 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 SmithCook Political Report shifts several Senate races toward Democrats On The Money: GOP mulls short-term unemployment extension | White House, Senate GOP strike deal on B for coronavirus testing Senate Democrats call for support for pork producers in coronavirus aid package 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.