Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

5 Faith Facts about Sam Brownback: Political Champion of Religious Freedom

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

5 Faith Facts about Sam Brownback: Political Champion of Religious Freedom

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, President Donald Trump's nominee for international religious freedom ambassador, describes religious freedom as "the choice of what you do with your own soul."

If confirmed, the 60-year-old, two-term Republican governor, former U.S. senator and onetime presidential candidate would be the first politician confirmed as the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Previous ambassadors were religious or nonprofit leaders, and Brownback would follow a rabbi and a Protestant minister.

"Religious Freedom is the first freedom," he said in a tweet responding to Trump's announcement. "I am honored to serve such an important cause."

Here are five faith facts about this Methodist-turned-Catholic politician:

1. He was a key sponsor of the legislation that created the office he may lead.

As senator, he supported the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which also created the ambassadorial post.

During his two terms as governor, "his actions on international religious freedom would be minimal," said Rabbi David Saperstein, the most recent ambassador. But Brownback's support of the State Department office while he was senator, and his efforts to end the South Sudan civil war, were noteworthy, Saperstein said.

2. He is a Catholic convert but attends evangelical churches with his family.

Brownback has been a bit of a Christian church hopper. He grew up a Methodist but converted to Catholicism in 2002. Today he attends Topeka Bible Church, said Teresa Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the nondenominational evangelical church with an average weekly attendance of 1,400.

Sometimes, he rises early for Mass before joining his family at the church, calling the routine, according to author Jeff Sharlet, a "great mixture of the feeding."

Sharlet's book,"The Family," about a secretive Christian group to which Brownback belonged, said the governor was "baptized not in a church but in the 'Catholic Information Center,'" a Washington chapel run by Opus Dei, another secretive group. …

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