Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been named as a senior advisor at the Standing for Freedom Center where his foreign policy experience will be used to help advance religious freedom, Liberty University announced Thursday.
Pompeo told The Christian Post in an interview on Tuesday that as a senior advisor he will further advance the religious freedom rights he promoted worldwide as secretary of state under the Trump administration and preserve the values he's held throughout his life.
“I’ve watched this Center begin its development and its deep commitment for a set of issues I’ve cared about for a good part of my life — the capacity for every human being to exercise their God-given rights to practice their faith or if they choose not to practice their faith …,” Pompeo said.
“We live in a special place, and I want to make sure we continue to do that at home here in the United States and then continue to work to expand that freedom abroad, as well, and I think this Center could be an important part of that,” Pompeo added.
Ryan Helfenbein, executive director of the Center, said other newly named fellows joining Pompeo include: former Gov. of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, and brothers David and Jason Benham, Christian entrepreneurs who are well-known for defending the faith in secular society.
“These fellows embody the core of what our Center stands for: faith, freedom, and engaging culture with Gospel-centered truth," Helfenbein said in a statement shared with CP.
"I’m proud to have these faithful world-changers on board with us and am excited to see our center grow with them,” he added.
Pompeo was known as an unapologetic defender of his faith in Jesus Christ during his confirmation hearings and while serving as secretary of state. He was frequently criticized for both his religious beliefs and for raising concerns about rising radical Islamic extremism worldwide.
Under the Trump administration, Pompeo was instrumental in advocating for religious freedom protections for people of all faiths as well as atheists' right not to adhere to any religious traditions.
He told CP that from his perspective, religious freedom is under assault in the United States, and stressed that it's the duty of every American to protect these rights.
“Each of us can do our part in every walk of life,” Pompeo said. “It starts with things that we do at home with our families, promoting this understanding, teaching our children about how important it is to make sure that every human being has the capacity to exercise their religious freedom. So it certainly starts there.”
Pompeo added that pastors and church leaders must talk to their congregations about the importance of religious freedom issues, and educators must teach their students that the U.S. Constitution requires the government to allow the free exercise of religion.
“[Religious freedom rights] are under assault,” he said. “They are under assault from city councils, county commissions, state elected officials. Every citizen can do their part in their space, in their own little community to do the right thing to promote religious freedom in the places that are closest to them.”
Standing up for religious freedom requires action, which might include writing letters, making phone calls, attending city council meetings or supporting legislators who support this, he explained.
“We have to understand that any place we see government infringing on our right to exercise our faith, we must push back,” he said.
In response to COVID-19, many states mandated lockdowns over the past year and have been accused of infringing on constitutionally protected religious freedom rights by placing more extreme measures on houses of worship than secular businesses. In some instances, state and county officials prohibited believers from gathering for worship outdoors or imposed limits on outdoor services, even going so far as to fine those who attended drive-in services. State governments, Pompeo said, must not continue to restrict religious entities in this way.
“We can never give an inch when it comes to religious freedom,” Pompeo continued. “This is the lesson of the past ... dozen-plus months. We can never give an inch. We have to defend it everywhere and always. The governments are omnivorous. They will attempt to deny religious people the capacity to worship, to share their faith with others in so many ways, and we saw that and we continue to see it. … We have to be dedicated to this cause.”
Pompeo warned against the Equality Act (H.R. 5), a 500-plus page bill passed by the U.S. House in February that adds sex, gender identity and sexual orientation to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
If it were to pass in the Senate and be signed into law by President Joe Biden, it would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected categories in nondiscrimination law. The measure also strips away key religious liberty provisions and conscience protections in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Its effects would be far-reaching because it redefines “public accommodation” to include “any establishment” that provides a service, including churches, shelters operated by religious groups, faith-based adoption agencies, and educational institutions associated with religious denominations and associations.
“We need to make sure that we educate and inform people about this [legislation],” Pompeo said. “It puts tax exemptions for churches at risk. It will put at risk the requirement for religious-affiliated institutions to engage in activities which they find inconsistent with their faith and their religion. We need to make sure that H.R.-5 never becomes law.”
Some have speculated about a 2024 presidential run for Pompeo. When asked by CP about this possibility, Pompeo said it's still a “long way off.”
“I’m going to do lots of good work here at the Freedom Center … continue to articulate our America-first foreign policy and those ideas and how they play out here at home. And then Susan and I will pray to try and figure out the right path for us starting in a year or two,” Pompeo said.
He also addressed these issues in an op-ed titled "America’s Heritage of Religious Freedom Matters to the World" for the Standing for Freedom Center that will also be featured in its spring journal.
Along with being the nation's 70th secretary of state from 2018 to 2021, Pompeo previously served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, CEO of Thayer Aerospace and president of Sentry International.
He also served four terms as a congressman for Kansas’ 4th district and is a graduate of West Point and Harvard Law. He and his wife, Susan, have one son.