Senate Finally Confirms Brownback as Ambassador-at-Large, Kansas Sighs With Relief

Posted: 12:27 am ET


On January 24, the Senate finally confirmed the nomination of Governor Samuel Brownback to be the Ambassador-at-Large at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The office resides under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) which in under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. The previous appointees to this position includes David Nathan Saperstein (2015), Suzan Denise Johnson Cook (2011–2013), John V. Hanford 3rd (2002–2009), and Robert A. Seiple (1999–2000). The office is responsible for the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.


In October 1998, President Clinton signed into law the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Act mandated the establishment of an Office of International Religious Freedom within the Department of State, headed by an Ambassador-at-Large who serves as principal advisor to the President and Secretary of State in matters concerning religious freedom abroad.

The Act has been amended a number of times over the years, most recently by the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which President Obama signed into law in December 2016. 22 U.S. Code Chapter 73.

The IRFA requires the preparation and transmittal to Congress of an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom detailing the status of religious freedom in each foreign country, violations of religious freedom by foreign governments, and United States’ actions and policies in support of religious freedom. Separately, the IRFA also requires that each year the President designate as a “Country of Particular Concern” each country the government of which has engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.

Per annual designation under IRFA, the Secretary of State designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as “Countries of Particular Concern”. On January 4, 2018, the Department of State announced that the Secretary of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017. The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.