Kansas Gov. Brownback To Leave For Federal ‘Religious Freedom’ Post

Orlin Wagner/AP

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will leave that role in favor of a job in the Trump administration, he and the White House announced Wednesday.

Brownback, who turned his state into a massive experiment of tax cuts and privatization (and a failed one at that, many argue), is now one of the least popular governors in the nation, the Kansas City Star noted.

He was tapped by Trump to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, reporting in that role directly to the secretary of state and leading the Office of International Religious Freedom. The post requires Senate confirmation.

On Twitter Wednesday, Brownback said he was “honored to serve such an important cause.”

In a statement Wednesday night, the White House noted that “[w]hile a member of the Senate, [Brownback] worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.” That law established the at-large ambassadorship during the Clinton administration.

In March of last year, Brownback signed into law a measure enabling student groups at public colleges to discriminate on the basis of religion, such that only Christian students, for example, could join a Christian students’ association.

The ACLU of Kansas noted in a statement Wednesday that “throughout his tumultuous tenure, Gov. Brownback worked tirelessly to erode the protections that the First Amendment affords for the separation of church and state.”

“The governor went so far as to advocate for, and sign into law, a bill that mandates government funding of organizations that discriminate in their membership, so long as that discrimination is rooted in religious belief,” the statement added. “In Gov. Brownback’s view, ‘religious freedom’ has meant issuing a license to discriminate against others, especially against LGBT Kansans.”

In a stunning blow to Brownback’s legacy, Kansas legislators overrode the governor’s veto in June to pass a bill reversing the income tax cuts that had come to haunt the state and mark Brownback’s governorship.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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