WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today voted against the nomination of Governor Sam Brownback for Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom. Sen. Menendez said he could not support a nominee “who does not seem to believe that all individuals are created equally”. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Anyone seeking to represent the United States of America must actively champion the values that shape us a nation – fundamental human rights, individual liberty, and of course, religious freedom. Recognizing that people interpret their own faiths differently – the right to freely do so is indeed a founding value of this country – we must never allow religion to be used as a pretext for persecution or deny anyone basic rights. Around the world governments and non-state actors use religion as a tool of oppression, cloaking their oppression in the guise of divine inspiration. People of all faiths are persecuted all over the world – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Bahai’I, but I fear Governor Brownback is narrowly focused on protecting Christian minorities.
“More critically, however, Governor Brownback has a troublesome record when it comes to protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals. I was deeply disturbed that Governor Brownback – when pressed multiple times during his confirmation hearing – could not muster a simple and resounding “no” - that it is never acceptable for a government to imprison or execute an individual based on their sexual orientation. I cannot in good faith support a candidate for the position of Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom who does not seem to believe that all individuals are created equally in God’s image.
“Similarly, Governor Brownback refused to say whether or not he believed it was acceptable for political leaders to use religion to deny women fundamental rights – including access to basic healthcare. Around the world, including in our country, and including under Governor Brownback’s leadership, we see political leaders using religious mores to oppress women and deny them basic human rights. As this Administration continues to expand the scope of the “global gag” rule to the effect of preventing healthcare workers from doing their jobs and performing lifesaving, basic medical care, we need a leader who will advocate for fundamental human rights.”