The public square, scrubbed of faith, is a lesser space, unmoored from history and values, discipline, and love and prone to leaders who are venal, corrupt, and singularly focused on maintaining power for the simple sake of self-aggrandizement.
This is why I have always made clear that faith in the public square is not only consistent with America’s Judeo-Christian tradition, but necessary for our Republic’s continued exceptionalism.
Back in 2010, I had entered the race to represent South Central Kansas in the U.S. House of Representatives. A reporter asked me how I handled my religious beliefs and my role as an elected official representing people of many faiths and many traditions. He was taken aback with my simple but direct answer: “My faith informs everything that I do. My understanding of my role and my work is guided by who I am as a Christian believer.” A bit aghast, the reporter said, “But how does that work?” I reiterated, “If I’m elected, my duty is to defend our Constitution from enemies, both foreign and domestic. But how to achieve that is, for every elected official, important; and for me, my faith is a central part of who I am.”
Exchanges similar to this have happened many times in many different forums during my time in public service. When I spoke as Secretary of State, I made clear to all that my work was to secure American freedoms – America First. Yet my understanding of America’s founding, my commitment to enlarging religious freedom for all peoples around the world, and my focus on human rights are all informed by the knowledge that we are all created in the image of God and endowed by Him with inalienable rights and are all equal in His eyes.
Just as God calls us to be humble, He also calls us to recognize the inherent dignity in each person. And no person can ever be true to any faith that believes in the dignity of all human life if they do not act out of concern for those whose dignity is assailed because of their faith. It is still the case in far too many places, such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba, that religious persecution and oppression is the norm rather than the exception.
In the Xinjiang province of China, millions of Uyghur Muslims are imprisoned in Orwellian concentration camps, their essential dignity denied. Throughout the rest of China, Christian believers are only permitted to worship in churches sanctioned and monitored by the Chinese Communist Party. No nation which denies religious freedom can ever claim to be good in some other way. And unborn life must also be protected. That is why we strengthened the Mexico City Policy to guarantee that no U.S. tax dollars were used for abortions by international organizations. Abortion isn’t a human right; it takes a human life.
To address the assault on religious freedom around the world, I convened the Ministerial To Advance Religious Freedom for three straight years (events the ACLJ participated in). These were the largest human rights events ever held at the State Department. The Ministerial brought together leaders from every corner of the globe to discuss the issues threatening religious freedom and to find solutions together. It proved that religious liberty matters to so many around the world and that it is an issue where America can and must lead.
As is said in Micah, we are called “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The work that I do with the American Center for Law and Justice is an important part of my commitment to religious freedom and to promoting policies that support families and that acknowledge that faith is not only lawful, but necessary, in our public square. There is much work to be done. Supporting the ACLJ’s efforts on legal, legislative, and cultural issues by implementing an effective strategy of advocacy, education, and litigation is an important part of preserving what is best about our nation.
Mike Pompeo is the former Secretary of State and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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