November 4, 2008

Religion and Politics ’08: Sam Brownback

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Background

Hometown
Parker, Kan.

Age
53

Religion
Roman Catholic

Education
University of Kansas, J.D., 1982 Kansas State University, B.A., 1979

Candidate Website
www.brownback.com

Candidacy Status
Formally withdrew candidacy Oct. 19, 2007. Endorsed candidacy of John McCain, Nov. 7, 2007.

Political Experience
U.S. Senator from Kansas, 1997-present U.S. Representative from Kansas, 1995-1996 White House Fellow detailed to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, 1990-1991 Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, 1986-1993

Professional Experience
Attorney, Manhattan, Kan., 1982-1986

Family Information
Spouse: Mary Stauffer Brownback
Children: Elizabeth Brownback, Andy Brownback, Abby Brownback, Mark Brownback, Jenna Brownback

Religious Biography

In His Own Words

“It’s hard to understand Americans without understanding faith. A country that walks away from God walks away from its own future. This is something that unites the country. It does not divide.” (Interview, March 2007)

Brownback grew up attending a United Methodist congregation – the only church in Parker, Kan. – and continued to attend mainline churches until a series of events rerouted his religious journey. He says a pivotal moment came in 1995 when he was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery to remove a tumor, prompting him to trust God “a lot more.” Attracted by youth programs for their five children, the Brownbacks beganattending the nondenominational and evangelical Topeka Bible Church in 2001. At the same time, Brownback was in the midst of several years of study and prayer about Roman Catholicism. Feeling a “real deep calling,” he convertedto Catholicism in 2002, even through his family did not. Brownback currently attends Mass early each Sunday before joining his family at Topeka Bible Church. Brownback says his fight with cancer also drove him to literally burn his resume and start focusing on political issues such as poverty, AIDS in Africa, human trafficking and race relations. He began to model his political life after William Wilberforce, an early 19th-century evangelical and member of the British Parliament. In March 2006, The Economistdubbed Brownback the “Wilberforce Republican.” Brownback chairs weekly meetings of the Values Action Team, a group of representatives from 30 to 40 socially conservative political organizations, such as the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition. He is also active in The Fellowship, a secretive religious network dedicated to working behind the scenes to influence current events. Brownback participates in a weekly “prayer cell” that includes other members of Congress, and at one point he lived with several congressmen in a Capitol Hill townhouse subsidized by The Fellowship. If nominated, Brownback would be the fourth Roman Catholic to win a presidential nomination and the first Catholic Republican to do so. If elected, he would be the second Catholic president, following John F. Kennedy.

On The Issues

Abortion Brownback has referred to abortion as “a holocaust” and often compares it to slavery. HesaysRoe v. Wade should be overturned and has sponsored or cosponsored several anti-abortionSenate bills, including the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Actand the Unborn Victims of Violence ActCompare McCain and Obama

Church and State Brownback has said America needs to “stop driving God out of the public square.” He supports allowing religious expression on public property, including nativity displays. He introduced thePublic Expressions of Religion Act, which required “activist groups” to pay their own legal fees when winning cases related to public displays of faith; Brownback said the bill “would prevent local cities and towns from being coerced into settling claims out of a fear of huge monetary losses.” Brownback cosponsored the 2005 Constitution Restoration Act, which would have limited the power of federal courts to rule on church-state issues. Compare McCain and Obama
Death Penalty Brownback opposes the death penalty except in rare, extreme cases. He has said that the Constitution does not mandate or prohibit the use of the death penalty but that “if we’re trying to establish a culture of life, it’s difficult to have the state sponsoring executions.” Compare McCain and Obama
Education Brownback proposed expanding a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., that allows students to attend private schools, including religious schools, with public money. He favors a constitutional amendment allowing school prayer and says intelligent design should be taught along with evolution in public schools. He cosponsored legislation affirming the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, saying, “There is nothing more American than the Pledge of Allegiance, and an acknowledgement of God is at the heart of our founding principles and is our nation’s motto.” Compare McCain and Obama
Environment Brownback has said Americans must recognize climate change and called for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He has promoted farm conservation practices as a method of combating global warming but opposes the Kyoto Treaty. Brownback voted against legislation in 2003 that called for research on abrupt climate change and for a market-based system of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Compare McCain and Obama
Faith-Based Initiatives Brownback supports President Bush’s faith-based initiative, calling it “a common-sense way to encourage the miraculous work of many highly effective faith-based charities.” Brownback regularly visits and even spends the night with prison inmates taking part in a faith-based reform program in his home state of Kansas. Compare McCain and Obama
Gay Marriage Brownback has said that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman” and called on Americans to “defend the institution of marriage by defending the definition of marriage.” He supported a federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage and has vowed to continue pushing the issue “until marriage between a man and a woman is protected.” Compare McCain and Obama
Health Care Brownback says America needs “market-based solutions, not government-run health care.” Headvocates market regulations that he says would create competition and result in lower insurance costs for the uninsured. He also supports giving Americans control over their medical records, allowing small-business owners and others to form insurance-purchasing pools and making health care more affordable. Compare McCain and Obama
Immigration Brownback supported a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate, which was designed to strengthen border security, crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers, establish a guest-worker program and create a path to citizenship for those already in the United States. He has said that America’s agricultural industry needs more low-wage, low-skill workers and that the country must simplify its immigration process while preventing criminals from entering the country. Compare McCain and Obama
Iraq War Brownback voted in favor of the 2002 invasion of Iraq. He says he still supports American involvement, calling Iraq the “key front in the war on terror.” He has expressed support for a federated system in Iraq consisting of three states – a Sunni area, a Shiite area and a Kurdish area – and with Baghdad as a federal city. Brownback opposed the January 2007 troop surge, saying that “Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution.” He also says the U.S. should transfer responsibility to Iraqis gradually and without set timetables. Compare McCain and Obama
Poverty Brownback voted for the 1996 welfare reform bill that required more work for recipients and placed limits on the amount of time they could receive benefits. He says poverty can best be addressed by welfare policy that encourages people to get married, to get a job and not to have children out of wedlock. He has promoted a “marriage development account program” to help married couples get training, buy a car, get an education or purchase a house. Brownback has voted againstincreasing the minimum wage. Compare McCain and Obama
Stem Cell Research Brownback opposes all research on embryonic stem cells but says the government should fund research that uses adult stem cells. He voted against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which would have allowed federal funding to be used for research on embryonic stem cells. He also appeared with three children who were adopted as frozen embryos, saying, “It is immoral to destroy the youngest of human lives for research purposes.” Compare McCain and Obama

Cite this publication: Benjamin Wormald. “Religion and Politics ’08: Sam Brownback.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (November 4, 2008) http://www.pewforum.org/2008/11/04/13558/, accessed on July 22, 2014.