Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, N.C., arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

Pence threatens Turkey over detained US pastor

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Vice President Mike Pence used a State Department summit of foreign ministers and religious leaders to call on Turkey to release U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson and threatened the country with sanctions if it did not.

“If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free,” said the vice president on Thursday (July 26), the day after the North Carolina clergyman was released from jail and placed under house arrest.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said Brunson was allowed to leave jail after 1 1/2 years because of “health problems.” The 50-year-old has lived in Turkey for 23 years and has served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church.

Pence asked “believers across America” to pray for Brunson, who has been charged with “dividing and separating” the majority-Muslim country as he spread his Christian faith.

“To President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”

Pence’s remarks about Brunson drew several rounds of applause, along with a “Whoo!” from someone in the audience. Ralph Reed, one of several informal evangelical advisers to President Trump in attendance, stood and applauded.

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wave after Pence's speech at the close of a three-day conference on religious freedom at the State Department in Washington, on July 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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Turkey's foreign minister responded in a tweet: "We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception."

Turkey did not send representatives to the three-day ministerial, which concludes Thursday and drew some 350 government officials, religious freedom advocates and others from more than 80 nations.

The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, billed as a first-ever gathering of its kind at the State Department, aimed to develop “concrete ways” to reduce religious persecution across the globe, according to its organizers. Among the victims of religious persecution and their relatives who spoke at the summit were Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline Furnari and a Uighur Muslim who has moved from China to the U.S. to leave a region where his people are “living in horror.”

Pence, who spoke for more than half an hour, said that 83 percent of the world’s population live in a nation where some religious practice or belief is banned or threatened.

He cited the Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega “virtually waging war on the Catholic Church,” the torture of Tibetan Buddhists in China, forced abortions and the outlawing of the Christian Bible in North Korea, and Russia’s imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Pence noted that some free societies, such as those in Europe, are also sites of religious intolerance.

“Just 70 years after the Holocaust, attacks on Jews, even on aging Holocaust survivors, are growing at an alarming rate,” the vice president said.

Pence, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, listed several new initiatives to continue the goals of the summit, which will become an annual event.

Pence said the U.S. is launching a Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program, under which the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will help persecuted individuals and households.

“Americas will help the victims of ISIS reclaim their lands, rebuild their lives, and replant their roots in their ancient homelands, so that all religions can flourish once again across the Middle East and the ancient world,” he said, drawing applause.

RELATED: Rebuilding with US funds, Iraq’s minority religious communities still await security

Pompeo, who introduced Pence, also addressed the rebuilding of religious communities in Iraq that have been devastated by the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS. He said his department will provide an additional $17 million to help remove land mines from the area around the Iraqi city of Nineveh, adding to the $90 million already spent in the country this year.

Other initiatives include a leadership program that would bring those on the “front lines of religious freedom issues” to the United States; a workshop, planned for October, to support private/public partnerships defending religious freedom; and regional conferences to the summit in several countries.

Pence also announced a new International Religious Freedom Fund to assist persecuted religious minorities, and he asked other nations to join the United States in supporting it. A ministerial document describing the fund said the U.S. government would cover its personnel and administrative expenses, leaving all other donations for activities such as awareness campaigns and initiatives for conflict prevention.

Both Pence and Pompeo reflected on their own faith as they repeatedly pledged the administration would be committed to the rights of people of all faiths.

“My own faith is of the greatest importance to me personally,” said Pompeo. “As an American, I’ve been blessed with the right to live out what I believe without fear of persecution or reprisal from my government. I want everyone else to enjoy this blessing too.”

He added: “The United States advances religious freedom in our foreign policy because it is not exclusively an American right. It is a God-given universal right bestowed on all of mankind.”

Pence concluded his remarks by pointing out that a verse from the Book of Leviticus from the Hebrew Bible – “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and unto (all) the inhabitants thereof” — is carved into the Liberty Bell.

“As the Bible tells us, ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’” the vice president said. “So freedom always wins when faith in him is held high.”


  1. So who’s this new guy, Timothy Golden?
    He seems awfully Socratic.

  2. Solipsistic you mean. 🙂

    Flagged the guy as spamming.

  3. Mike Pence can sound as righteous as he pleases about religious freedom, but it means nothing as long as his boss continues to suck up to repressive, anti-religion thugs like Duterte, Putin and Kim Jong Un.

    The art of statecraft is to be diplomatic but consistent in values and policy. It doesn’t mean talking tough when you’re in front of your base and then acting like a giddy school girl when your standing next to a despot.

  4. “…Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.””
    So war over one guy? Think if it was Fethullah Gulen, Little Sonny Boy would care?

  5. Pence a champion of religious liberty? What a joke. As governor of Indiana this pathetic jerk did all he could to deny women their rights of conscience and religious liberty on abortion. And he overexerted himself to wreck public education by going all out to divert public funds to church-run private schools through vouchers, thumbing his nose at Article I, Sections 4 and 6 of his own state constitution. And to think that this creep is but a heartbeat from the presidency. Appalling!. – Edd Doerr

  6. He was referring to Pence, who was one of Indiana’s worst governors.

  7. Sounds like Pence is top-quality presidential material, actually.

  8. If you like racist, fascist, theocratic dictators, which you obviously do.

    Pence wants to lynch all homosexuals, FYI. I guess you like that sort of thing, Your Blackness.

  9. Surely you jest. Pence accepted Trump’s offer to run with him because he was fairly sure that he would lose his bid for re-election as governor of the pathetic state of Indiana (my home that, BTW).

  10. Okay, I’ll bite. Tell me exactly how and when the Vice President expressed any sentiments about lynching any gay people — at all.

    (P.S. I suspect you are losing points with the RNS readers on this “Your Blackness” thing. Phrases like Your Blackness” or “Your Gayness” come off as severely awkward even if the context fits okay — and the last couple times, the context hasn’t fit at all.

    So for the sake of these pro-gay readerr’s around here, you gotta come up with something better.)

  11. So it was Trump, NOT Pence, who said something really unfortunate?

  12. I think it was you who said something really unfortunate: namely, everything you’ve ever said about gay people on the internet. You are an angry mob leader, looking for people to lynch, just for being gay or trans. How dare you?

  13. Putin, a despot, supports and is supported by the Russian Orthodox Church. Their are, and have been, many religious despots,

  14. Putin’s relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church is a marriage of convenience, as is Trump’s relationship with evangelicals. Politics, strange bedfellows, yada, yada.

    Yes, there have been many religious despots. No question about it. That’s one of many reasons why church and state should be kept separate.

    Whether you’re among the oppressors or the oppressed is largely a matter of perspective. Like LBJ used to say, it all depends on whose ox is gittin’ gored.

  15. Dude, I thought it was your second profile. He didn’t make sense either… 🙂

  16. You didn’t even look up “Solipsistic”? 🙁

    I don’t use sockpuppets. Too much work. I am lazy that way.

    I leave that to Bob.

  17. Has the born-again Christian U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence made the Hebrews 13 & Matthew 25 Pledge to the prisoner of Turkey, Andrew Craig Brunson, his fellow born-again Christian brother? Because, that would explain his “message … to President Erdogan and the Turkish government”. Which is: “Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences. … The United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free”!

    To Pence, see, Hebrews 13:3 is saying, “Remember [your fellow born-again Christian brother, Andrew Craig Brunson] the prisoner, as though in prison with him”. And that’s exactly what Pence is now doing, no?

    And to him, see, Matthew 25:40, 36 is saying, “To the extent that you do it to [your fellow born-again Christian brother, Andrew Craig Brunson, the prisoner], you do it to THE Christ Jesus of the gospels, epistles and revelation. For Jesus is in prison [in Turkey], and [Pence] comes to Him.” And that’s exactly what Pence is now doing, no?

  18. Nope. Keep the big words for someone else. I’m a blue collar guy.

  19. Unfortunately presidents have to deal with repressive leadeers.

    The phrase “suck up”, of course, is your inflammatory contribution to non-discourse despite a professed aim of civility.

    There is nothing in the art of statecraft that requires consistency in “values and policy”. We don’t have that internally in the United States in any of the three branches of govenment.

    And “acting like a giddy school girl when you’re standing next to a despot” is another fissure in your alleged rock of civility.

  20. Russians have a deep attachment to Mother Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Generally westerners are clueless about what drives Russians, who as much Asian as European.

    Russians consider Moscow the New Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church the successor to the see of Constantinople.

    They also do not share the concept of separating religion from government at all.

  21. I believe it would fair to say that Pence was not a favorite of your old buddies at the NEA or Planned Parenthood.

    He followed another Republican governor, was on his way to being reelected to a second term, and Indiana elected a Republican successor, so apparently the people of Indiana were more pleased with his performance than you were.

  22. Actually he was shoe-in for reelection, and the guy who stepped into his shoes promising more of the same was elected.

  23. Only if you don’t block him. I just see a lot of “This user is blocked” notes.

  24. So what’s that on your hand, your wife’s stockings?

  25. Both Trump and Putin need the support of their Christian Right followers. I would guess they are both only pretending to have faith but must give that impression. Both of them want to create a culture of blind followers and religion can be the way to support that. Putin is way ahead of Trump in this way. Even during the Communist oppression the Orthodox Church had the clandestine support of 30% of the Russian people. They are Christian Nationalists devoted to their country and their religion which are united.
    Putin is promoting the teachings of a diseased fascist philosopher, Ivan Ilyin that supported Hitler and Mussolini.

    I doubt that Trump could follow the writings of Ivan Ilyin, but his counselors must, because his policies seem to track Ilyin’s plan to create a “liberal” oligarchy into a fascist state to protect the oligarchs. He admires Putin as he has already accomplished this.

  26. Yes start doing something about Islamaphobia in the good ole’ USA !

  27. He’s also a major homophobe, who has never tired of using his government office to attempt to discriminate against LGBT citizens. And frankly, any man who insists on referring to their wife as “Mother” is just a freak, in my opinion.

  28. Wrong as usual. Even Hoosier Republicans hated him and after he left undid much of the damage Pence wrought on the state. Pence was widely unpopular, after his tumultuous first term. Hoosiers are generally relieved that he’s gone.

  29. WRONG. Article 14 of the 1993 Russian constitution stipulates that “the Russian Federation is a secular state. No religion may be established as the state religion or a compulsory religion. Religious associations are separated from the state and are equal before the law.” The constitution also regards alll religions as equal, including Islam and Buddhism, which are widely practiced.

  30. Putin no longer needs to follow the rule of law. His regime and the Orthodox church are hand in hand. I think this is the first time I agree with Bob Arnzen

  31. Duterte is one of the most intelligent wise and compassionate leaders in the world today. I visited Marawi today and saw the new housing supplied to Muslim civillians used as human shields during the war/siege. I believe Duterte, like myself, has no supernatural imaginary friends in outer space who tell him who to hate and kill.

    Why does this Evangelist preacher try to convert a Muslim country expect the USA to save him from his own stupidity?

  32. Duterte engages in extra-judicial murder. He’s a thug.

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