Ever since Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax policy was discarded in favor of reality-based economic principles, he’s been looking for new purpose in his life. His prayers apparently were answered last week in the form of a nomination from President Donald Trump to serve as the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
During a press conference Thursday to discuss the appointment, Brownback joked that it was “the day you’ve all been waiting for,” as reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal.
As for an assessment of his time as governor, Brownback said: “It’s just been a hoot.”
Kansans have a different take, evidenced by consistently low approval numbers making him the most unpopular governor in the nation as well as a super majority of the Legislature willing to flush his trickle-down fantasy.
Nonplussed, Brownback is ready to move on to the State Department position if the U.S. Senate confirms him. We suspicion he’ll don similar blinders for his religious pursuits as he did with the state economy. Instead of improving U.S. efforts to promote actual religious freedom around the world, we would expect Brownback to focus on elevating a rather narrow conservative view of Christianity at the expense of all others.
He wouldn’t come out and say that, of course. Quite the opposite. At last week’s conference, Brownback said freedom of religion is “for all faiths.”
But even the briefest of glimpses at Brownback’s track record as a politician reveals his mooring. In both Topeka and Washington, D.C., he has attempted to twist the meaning of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. His public attestations of faith, his eagerness to sign some of the toughest abortion laws based not on the law of the land but upon his belief in biblical teachings, and the faith-based programs he’s foisted upon inmates, foster children and those on welfare all fail the test of “religious freedom.”
Brownback was a champion of legislation introduced in 2014 that was called “an act concerning religious freedoms in respect to marriage.” The bill stated individuals did not have to “treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid” provided it did not coincide with that person’s religious beliefs. The bill, which never made it out of the Legislature, basically would have legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community in the name of the Lord.
One bill that did make it to Brownback’s desk, and which he signed immediately, was the Campus Religious Freedom Bill. Current state law now allows university groups freedom to keep gay people out of their ranks without worrying about losing state funding. The governor also signed a law barring Kansas courts from considering any foreign laws in making decisions — something aimed at preventing sharia law from taking hold, yet somehow allowing rules written in Israel.
A statement from the ACLU of Kansas claimed Brownback’s “policies on religious freedom have not been about protecting the constitutional right to worship when, where, how, and with whom you like; they have been about giving people the ability to pick and choose whether they will respect the fundamental human rights of their fellow citizen, based on their own particular religious views.”
Such tenets would appear useless in assisting those around the world being killed, injured, tortured and exiled because they represent something different than the dominant religion of the region.
On the other hand, Brownback is going to work for Trump, who still is pushing for a Muslim ban of some kind. Kansas’ governor had no problem threatening to halt all refugees from Syria already. The two likely will work well together.
We only can hope religious minorities around the world don’t suffer the same fate as the Kansas economy because of Brownback’s leadership. Godspeed, governor.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry