A Conversation with Ambassador Brownback: The Cornerstone of Religious Freedom
Jason Yates (CEO) has an engaging conversation with Sam Brownback, former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, as he addresses the important topic of Religious Freedom and why Christians should be concerned about the issue.
According to Ambassador Brownback, religious freedom is the foundational cornerstone for human rights. "If you get religious freedom right, then you can build freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of press from it. If you get it wrong, however, these other freedoms generally deteriorate."
You’ll want to listen to every second of this interview but here are some powerful questions that were asked:
- Why should Christians care about religious freedom abroad?
- So many people place the sanctity of life as a primary issue that decides their vote. Should they think the same about the issue of religious freedom?
Jason Yates: Ambassador Brownback, it is such an honor and a pleasure to spend a little bit of time with you. You have in your career, in your lifetime, done enormous things for our nation and I know right now you're doing just incredible, impactful things across the world. Tell us a little bit about what you're up to and what's new with you since leaving the administration and what's the big thing for you right now?
Ambassador Brownback: Well, thanks for that and you're overly generous. I've been blessed. God's opened a lot of doors and I've had. I've been able to walk through them. So I and a lot of people have supported me and I've just been very, very blessed.
What I'm doing right now is really focusing on supporting religious freedom at home and abroad. So we've started up an organization called The National Committee for Religious Freedom to fight for religious freedom issues here at home, to be a singular, nonpartisan group that just supports candidates that are for religious freedom and opposes candidates that are against it and to do educational work on that.
And I hope people can plug into that. They can go on our website, TheNCRF.org and then I work on international religious freedom. On the co-chair of the International Religious Freedom Summit, and that's where the global community that supports religious freedom comes together and starts talking about what can we do in various countries to support religious freedom because it's a global society. Ukraine and Russia's heavy right now. But you know, part of this, a decent part of the fight about religious freedom. The Ukrainians want their own Orthodox Church and the Russians saying no. And when they split off Ukraine split off, it was like, Well, you're tearing away from us as it. Yeah, we don't want to be bullied by you. We want to be our own people.
And so that's one those are the two of the big things that I'm involved in right now.
Jason: You know, I think it's interesting you're talking about Ukraine, and there's probably so many American Christians included that don't even really fully understand some of the core issues that are at play. And you're outlining one of them. And that's powerful,
Ambassador Brownback: You know, and I think it's just a blind spot for us in the West, in both the dominant media and in diplomacy and government. They just don't think of faith as being a motivator or they think it is an inhibitor kind of some sort of old-fashioned values, but they don't see it as most people in the world move by their faith. That's how they organize. Their life is on some sort of basis of faith. I follow Jesus and that's how I organize my life. And 80 percent of the world organizes their life around some faith. But in the Western mindset and the media in particular and in government, it's kind of like, Oh, those are quaint notions. But this is all based on reason. This is all based on how we think as well. A lot of it is, but much of it's informed from the belief system.
Jason: And I think that's what is really behind My Faith Votes because we want our faith to be driving, how we act, how we vote. And here's a question for you why should Christians? This seems like a question that we shouldn't even have to ask, but let's spell it out. Why should Christians care about religious freedom abroad?
Ambassador Brownback: Well, because you care about your brothers and sisters because these are people that are fellow followers of Jesus, your brothers and sisters who are being thrown in jail or being killed or being human trafficked because they're a Christian minority and in a country that's dominated by another faith.
And if the United States doesn't stand up and fight for it, nobody else will. We're the ones that are doing it, and God's blessed us with the chance and the opportunity, and often the resources to do this. And plus, I don't think people in this country recognize the degree to which the Protestant church around the world is headquartered in the United States, and much of the Protestant Church is resourced and funded, and organized through US-based entities. And these are people that then get persecuted. We don't want to just start them and then get them thrown in jail or killed. You want to protect them, and we can use our political and diplomatic positions to stand up for their right to have their own faith and exercise it freely. We. Need to use that muscle, and they need us to use that muscle or they're going to get hurt.
Jason: So many people place the sanctity of life as a primary issue that decides their vote. Should they think the same about the issue of religious freedom?
Ambassador Brownback: You know, I mean, for me, I would still put life above it because it's just it's everything. You know, if you don't believe we're founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and it's life and life has been taken away.
But I think religious freedom is is the foundational cornerstone for human rights. You get religious freedom right you can build freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of press off of it. You get this one wrong and those generally deteriorate.
So life is just so foundational and everything. But to me, religious freedom is foundational within the human rights sphere. Once you're here and born, you've got human rights and the foundation is you're free to do with your own soul what you choose, and no government has the right to interfere with this. This is a God-given right and out of this, we'll see other rights flourish. I think it's a foundational one. Life is the precious one that's just without it, you don't even get a chance to pursue these other ones.
Jason: It seems to me that based on what you just said in American culture and society today. They're getting it backwards because they're putting certain rights out in front of religious freedom. And I think what you're saying is it really works the other way around.
Ambassador Brownback: It does. It's like they tell a legendary story about Vince Lombardi, the great Green Bay Packers coach starting off the football season every year, holding up a football. And he's saying, Men, this is a football, you know, and one of those smart alec guys, I guess at one time, said Coach. Slow down, you're going a little too fast for me.
But I mean, it was just it was like, it's the basic, OK, it's blocking and tackling. But if you don't block and tackle, you can't throw a pass because the other guy is going to get through and get you. And that's what this one is. It's really just that fundamental basic.
And what we've done that I think has been a disservice to the human rights project is we've made kind of everything of human rights. So if everything's a human right, nothing's a human right. You've got to get these fundamentals right.
If your cornerstone rots, if your cornerstone crumbles, you can't build the building. And that's what this one and you and our founders saw this. They make this the First Amendment, the first in the Bill of Rights.
And they also just think of where they were. They had these colonies. This set of 13 colonies and they had the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and they had the Baptists down here and they had the Catholics in Maryland. And they all came from a continent where people thought about religion and you had your state religion in your state church, and now you're going to make one country out of these 13 different. How are you going to do this? Religious freedom.
But we will not have a state church and you will have the free exercise of your own faith, whatever you see fit and we'll guarantee it. And out of that, you can bring together this beautiful symphony of different ideas without killing each other. Yeah, that's how fundamental this is. Think about Martin Luther King Jr. You know, when he's organizing the civil rights movement, where does he organize? Yes, it's in the African-American churches. It's in the church and praise God that he did. You know, so he uses that to then build on moving forward.
Jason: When we talk about religious freedom, though, I think we've got to be clear, it's not just about Christian religious freedom. If we talk about it just in the context of Christianity, what's at risk? I mean, how is it that we don't really have religious freedom if we only apply it in one direction?
Ambassador Brownback: Yeah. Well, if we say, you know, it's good for Christians, but it's not good for Muslims.
Then, OK, if we can limit Muslims because you want to limit Muslims, then why can't somebody else limit Christians or Jews? Plus, I just I love the idea that we have a country where Orthodox Jewish people can wear a yarmulke and go in public and celebrate their values in the public square, even though I may differ. I follow Jesus. Yeah, but I am honored that you can live and you can practice your faith and your values freely in this public square here. And it's a better nation, for it.
But if we limit you, then you can limit anybody. And that's why this is really one of those fundamental rights that it only holds together if you stand for everybody and everybody stands for each other. It's just imperative that you do that and we live it that way.
Jason: You spoke a little bit about Ukraine and the issues happening there, but I know you've continued to stay involved in Afghanistan. Tell us a little bit about that and what's happening over there.
Ambassador Brownback: It's just horrific. I thought what we did in Afghanistan and pulling out, the Biden administration, it was one of the most damaging and terrible things that we've done as a country in the last several decades. So I'm co-chairing a group and it's just it's an informal group that is helping to continue to get out Afghans that worked with Western NGOs and religious minorities. Maybe their Christian converts, maybe they're Shia Muslims and not Sunni like the Taliban are, to be able to get get them out of the country before they get killed.
There will be a genocide in Afghanistan within the year, of religious minorities. This will happen if these people don't get out of the Taliban or there's other radical militant Muslim groups that are more radical than the Taliban that are there, that are hunting them down now. The people I'm working with, they've got a number of folks in safe houses now, but they're being hunted. And this is going to happen and that's what we've got to get them out. We've got to provide them safe haven. We need to provide safe haven in the United States. We need other countries to step up. Brazil is taking a number. But if that doesn't happen, they're going to be slaughtered. They will be slaughtered and it will happen within a year.
Jason: I know there are probably people listening to this that are wondering, what can I do? They hear that and they feel compelled. I wish I could do something. Is there? Is there anything?
Ambassador Brownback: There is. I mean, they can in their group. Their church can sponsor some of the Afghans that are coming here to the United States. And these are ones that have worked with us on the battlefield or worked with our non-governmental organizations or they’re Christian converts from Islam that if they stay, they will be killed. This will happen to them and their group can sponsor because we are taking some, but we need to take more and get them, and we need to get other countries to take them.
And I know this is a sensitive political issue on immigration, but they're coming in legally right through our system and we've always welcomed waves of immigrants.
Vietnam, my oldest son, is married to a second-generation Vietnamese woman whose parents fled Vietnam after the fall of Vietnam. And we’re the richer country for it. And when this happens, but they desperately need our help.
Jason: Immigration is a cornerstone of its value, a core value of our nation, and we aren't for illegal immigration and all that comes with that. But for this, we need to step up.
Ambassador Brownback: Yeah, I mean, we are we're a nation of immigrants outside of Native Americans. We all came here from somewhere else.
Yeah, but we need a legal system and not an illegal system. But this is a legal process that we're pursuing. And it's also with is with people that have helped us on the battlefield. We have never left our troops on the field. We always get our troops out and the people that serve with us, that's a core value of us being American.
And these are people that have helped us there and they're in harm's way. That's and that's why a lot of the people I'm working with are former military operators because these are people they've worked with or Christian NGOs. These are people they've worked with that are having to hide now. This is not the way the United States works to leave our own on the battlefield.
Jason: Let's go back and talk a little bit about the National Committee for Religious Freedom that you're starting. Tell us a little bit about the objectives. What do you hope to accomplish.
Ambassador Brownback: We’re modeled after the National Right to Life Committee. And mentally, that's what I'm thinking of a small national organization, 50 state chapters where people there fight for religious freedom on the local and the state level. It's a 501(c)4, so it'll do educational work and it'll do candidate identification. Voter guides, as I mentioned, candidate pledges and we hope to be stood up in a number of states for this fall election cycle, where we would ask candidates to take a voter pledge.
Will you support religious freedom or not? Will define what that means. If there are votes that we can, can measure and can put out will publicize this candidate is here on this issue. This candidate is, that there on that issue will endorse candidates to be able to get that out.
What we need people to volunteer from various states. We need them to sign up on the website and say, “Look, I want to be helpful on this effort” and we need to do it now because there's a number of things crowding in. But some people going, you know, religious freedom. It's not that big of issue here. It is an issue overseas, but it's not a big enough issue here. You need to get. It's like anything you need to get on top of it earlier rather than later, and your opportunities for success are higher and you're already seeing so much crowding in on this space.
Jason: I was just in conversation with a pastor in Montana who works as a pastor, but on the side is a realtor, and he got into a situation where he and they [church] declined to take part in a community food bank because the food bank was putting LGBTQ flyers information in the food boxes for students, and they refused to take part in that. And so there was a complaint against him personally for that decision. And the National Realtors Association decided, based on a rule that they implement in 2020, that that was hate speech, and he may lose his license and as a result. And those kinds of things are happening, they're happening all over the place.
Ambassador Brownback: You've got a Finnish parliamentarian that's been criminal charges against her for quoting the Bible. You've got that case. You've got any number of them. And what we want this national committee to do and say in Montana is for religious freedom is to stand up and say and say, look, he is peacefully practicing his faith of a traditional moral set of values. And this is not hate speech. This is a way that billions of people around the world organize their lives. And if somebody wants to pursue a different lifestyle, that's fine. That's their choice to do. That's their human dignity. But if you want to pursue a traditional moral lifestyle, that's also your choice to be able to do, and you shouldn't be punished in the public square or in your professional activities as a realtor by simply standing up and speaking your own set of values, not hatefully, peacefully, but you've got that right. That is your free expression right.
And that's why I hope we can really get this stood up in a lot of states rapidly so that people can put, that forward and that and that we talk about the beauty of religious freedom. I don't know hardly of any homeless shelters in America that aren't operated by people of faith. It’s that spiritual capital that comes out of their hearts coming out and that they help and serve. You know, and we need to talk about the beauty of what religion has meant to this country and their accommodation of people. I’ve got a German Baptist family that helps my elderly parents and they practice faith differently than I would, or that my children would be willing to. But God bless them. I am honored that they practice their faith that way and can freely in this nation. I just want them to be able to do that now.
Jason: My Faith Votes is blessed. We have a program we call Action Partners, and it's a grassroots set of people from every state that are raising their hands, saying, I want to do something and we're resourcing them and pointing them in directions that they can get involved and make a difference and an impact. We’ll point them in your direction. But if people want to get involved, go directly to what you're doing. Is there a way that they can do that?
Ambassador Brownback: Yes, go on that website. TheNCRF.org and there's a signup spot there because to build out in 50 states, you need a lot of people volunteering and being willing to help and organize and sign up and say you want to help out in whatever state you're from because we're going to need a lot of help in this fight. And it's a critical fight. It's a critical fight for the future of the country.
Jason: Well, I hope we can get a lot of our Action Partners over there and a lot of others as well. Ambassador, thank you so much for all that you're doing to serve this country, this nation, and throughout the world. Appreciate your service.
Ambassador Brownback: Happy to do it. Thank you.
To learn more about My Faith Votes Action Partners, visit https://www.myfaithvotes.org/a...
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.