Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the annual report on Tuesday with Ambassador Sam Brownback, the former governor of Kansas who now serves as the State Department envoy for international religious freedom. Mr. Pompeo also said he would hold an international symposium on religious freedoms in late July in Washington.
“The ministerial will also be my first to host as the secretary of state, and that’s very intentional,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters. “Religious freedom is, indeed, a universal human right that I will fight for.”
The Trump administration has tended to de-emphasize human rights as a foreign policy priority. Former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson often said that life-or-death issues, such as terrorism, were far more important than those of individuals’ rights.
But the administration’s evangelical supporters see the issue of religious freedom, particularly that of Christian minorities in places like the Middle East, as deeply important. The continuing detention and trial in Turkey of Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor, has caused serious strains in relations between Ankara and Washington, with some on Capitol Hill proposing to apply sanctions on Turkey in response.
“International religious freedom deserves to be a front-burner issue, and Ambassador Brownback and I, with him leading the way, will ensure that it continues to be so,” Mr. Pompeo said.