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President Donald Trump has formally nominated Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to serve as the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom.

Brownback has served as Kansas governor since 2011. His name has been in the mix for the post for weeks, before the White House announced his pick.

If confirmed, Brownback will serve effectively as the head of the Office of International Religous Freedom within the State Department. That office is charged with promoting religous freedom as a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, according to the State Department’s website. The office’s mission is to monitor “religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom.”

Before serving as governor, Brownback represented the state in Congress — first as a representative in 1995 and 1996, then as a senator from 1996 to 2011. While in the Senate, in particular, Brownback focused on religious freedom and helped shape the International Religious Freedom Act, which passed in 1998.

In Kansas, Brownback has proved to be a deeply unpopular governor, even in a bedrock conservative state. A recent survey by Morning Consult found he was the second-least popular governor in America, with only 25 percent of those surveyed approving of of his job performance, and a 63 percent disapproval rating.

Brownback’s nomination comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has tried — and struggled — to eliminate an array of envoy and ambassador-at-large positions as he reorganizes the State Department. Tillerson has left some envoy positions vacant, without nominees, as a way to force the issue, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set Thursday to consider legislation that will give lawmakers a greater say over how special envoy jobs are filled.

The position was last held by Rabbi David Saperstein, former director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center.


Photo: Sam Brownback has served as Kansas’ governor since 2011. His name has been in the mix for the post for weeks. | John Hanna/AP


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