***VIDEO*** Menendez Strongly Opposes Brownback Nomination

***VIDEO*** Menendez Strongly Opposes Brownback Nomination

Menendez: In these uncertain times, in a world rife with challenges, our Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom must be a champion for people of all faiths, and a warrior for the human dignity of all God’s children.

   

Washington, D.C. – Shortly before voting against the nomination, United States Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) spoke on the Senate Floor against Governor Sam Brownback’s nomination to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Sen. Menendez strongly opposed Gov. Brownback because of his past statements about LGBTQ and women’s rights, as well as Menendez’s concern that Gov. Brownback will focus solely on protecting Christian minorities instead of demanding equal treatment for the plight of all religious minorities.

“Governor Brownback’s career has been defined by a lack of tolerance for those who do not share his own beliefs,” Menendez said. “I fear Governor Brownback will focus solely on protecting Christian minorities – while we must acknowledge publicly that people of all faiths are persecuted and demand equal representation.”

Senator Menendez also criticized the way Gov. Brownback responded to questions on his abysmal LGBTQ rights record.

“Additionally, his own personal record on important issues gives me concern,” Menendez said. “Consider his troublesome record on protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals. I was deeply disturbed that when pressed during his confirmation hearing, Governor Brownback could not bring himself to muster a resounding ‘no’ - that it is NEVER acceptable for a government to imprison or execute an individual based on their sexual orientation. Condemning such horrific human rights abuses should never be a heavy lift for anyone who seeks to represent our nation on the global stage.  So I cannot in good faith support the confirmation of someone as Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom who does not believe that all individuals are created equally in God’s image.”

 

WATCH VIDEO

 

Menendez’s remarks below, as prepared for delivery:

M. President, I come to the floor today to express my concerns over the nomination of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to serve the Ambassador At Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF) at the State Department.

I do not take my vote against a former colleague’s nomination lightly. Nor do I question Governor Brownback’s devotion to his own faith. Indeed as a person of faith myself, I admire it.

I firmly believe, however, that anyone seeking to represent the United States of America must actively champion the right of all people to worship freely and without fear. 

The right to religious freedom is enshrined in our Constitution, and a value that we must champion at home and abroad.

And having devoted my life to serving the people of New Jersey – a state enriched by our incredible diversity – I believe religious freedom is part of what makes America exceptional.

For even in the 21st century, we live in a world where governments and non-state actors still use religion as a tool of oppression… They cloak their authoritarianism in the guise of divine inspiration… Using their faith to justify the persecution of anyone they choose.

The U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom must commit to defending the rights of all religious minorities around the world – Christians and Muslims, Jews and Sikhs, Hindus and Bahai’l.

Unfortunately Governor Brownback’s career has been defined by a lack of tolerance for those who do not share his own beliefs.

I fear Governor Brownback will focus solely on protecting Christian minorities – while we must acknowledge publicly that people of all faiths are persecuted and demand equal representation.

Additionally, his own personal record on important issues gives me concern. Consider his troublesome record on protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals. I was deeply disturbed that when pressed during his confirmation hearing, Governor Brownback could not bring himself to muster a resounding “no” - that it is NEVER acceptable for a government to imprison or execute an individual based on their sexual orientation.

Condemning such horrific human rights abuses should never be a heavy lift for anyone who seeks to represent our nation on the global stage.

So I cannot in good faith support the confirmation of someone as Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom who does not believe that all individuals are created equally in God’s image.

During his hearing, Governor Brownback also declined to say whether political leaders should be able to use religion to deny women access to health care and deprive them of basic human rights… His silence spoke volumes.

At time when the Trump Administration continues to expand the scope of the “global gag rule” to the effect of preventing healthcare workers from doing their jobs and providing lifesaving care. We need a leader who recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. And who knows that the oppression of women by religious zealots is a hallmark of despotism. 

During his time as Governor and here in the Senate, Mr. Brownback often used religion to push policies that undermine the right of women to access health care, control their own bodies, and determine their own destinies.

As much as I know the people of Kansas wish to see Governor Brownback sent abroad and out of their state, I cannot support his confirmation today.

In these uncertain times, in a world rife with challenges, our Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom must be a champion for people of all faiths, and a warrior for the human dignity of all God’s children. 

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