President Donald Trump has nominated current Kansas governor Samuel Brownback to be the next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
If his nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Brownback would be the first elected official to take on the position. Past international religious freedom ambassadors have been leaders of nonprofit organizations or religious leaders. The most recent ambassador-at-large was David Saperstein, a rabbi.
"Religious freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul," tweeted Brownback on Wednesday. "I am honored to serve such an important cause."
"Kansas is my home. Here, we are free to live in faith. Religion is where we live our inner life. All people ought to live that in freedom," Brownback added on Thursday.
Following his appointment, many leaders in nonprofits and religious communities endorsed Brownback and said his previous efforts to promote religious freedom make him fit for the role.
For instance, Frank Wolf, former Virginia politician, told Christianity Today that Brownback "was the first senator to go to Darfur during the genocide, and came back and spoke out to help the people of Sudan."
"He was also very active in working on issues of religious freedom in Egypt, China, and many other countries. At a time when, according to the Pew Research Center, we see growing religious persecution, I believe Sam Brownback is an outstanding appointment," Wolf said.
Brownback was also one of the sponsors of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, a measure which created the very position that he has been appointed into.
"Given his strong experience on the important issue of international religious freedom, we have confidence that Gov. Brownback will be an important asset and champion," said David Curry, the CEO of the advocacy group Open Doors USA. "This nomination demonstrates a genuine commitment on behalf of the Trump administration to religious freedom around the world."
"With religious persecution reaching devastating levels around the world, we urge the Senate to confirm Gov. Brownback for this crucial role as soon as possible," Curry added.
Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also endorsed Brownback, and described him as "a seasoned, respected leader who brings conviction and gravity" to the position.
"While in the Senate, Brownback was heroic on the crisis in Darfur, in dealing with AIDS in Africa and advocating on behalf of persecuted religious minorities. He will be an exceptional Ambassador," Moore said.