WASHINGTON—The White House announced in a statement on July 26 that Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a longtime advocate of Armenian Genocide recognition in the U.S., will be nominated to serve as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
“The failure to realize a just resolution for the Armenian Genocide plays out tragically in Turkey every day as Armenians and other indigenous religious minorities face government policies that threaten their very existence,” said Armenian Legal Center’s Executive Director Kate Nahapetian.
“Their sacred sites continue to be desecrated, with thousand-year-old churches long predating the Turkish Republic being used as barns where animals defecate. As a Senator who was a lead sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, who recognized the importance of applying the lessons of the Armenian Genocide in our contemporary policies, Governor Brownback appreciated religious freedom as not only a fundamental U.S. value but also an important foreign policy objective. We hope Governor Brownback, if confirmed, will forcefully defend religious freedom, sacred sites, and churches of Armenians and minorities in Turkey,” Nahapetian added.
In 2010, then-Senator Brownback placed a hold on President Barack Obama’s nominee for the post of U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Ambassador Frank Ricciardone. While Brownback did not say why he placed the hold, a spokesperson at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Fox News, “I’m not going to get into it. It’s all about Armenia.”
Over the years, Brownback has co-sponsored the Armenian Genocide Resolution in Congress.
“Senator Brownback’s hold on Francis Ricciardone’s nomination as U.S. ambassador to Turkey underscores the challenges the administration is facing as it seeks to manage an increasingly complex, strained, and unpredictable U.S.-Turkey relationship,” said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), back in 2010. “More broadly, this action highlights the pressing need for the U.S. Congress—and all concerned elements of American civil society—to carefully reexamine whether our national interests and international standing are served by constantly caving in to Turkey on human rights, regional security, and genocide denial.”
Brownback has been Governor of Kansas since 2011. Previously, he served as a U.S. Senator (1996-2011) and a member of the House of Representatives (1995-1996) from Kansas. While a member of the Senate, he worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. He also served as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture (1986-1993) and was a White House Fellow in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (1990-1991). Brownback was a private attorney in Kansas and taught agricultural law at Kansas State University; he has co-authored two books on the subject. He holds a B.S. from Kansas State University and a J.D. from the University of Kansas. He and his wife Mary have five children.