Pompeo Responds to Criticisms He’s ‘Overtly Religious’ as Secretary of State

September 21, 2020 Updated: September 21, 2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sept. 20 responded to recent criticisms that he is “overtly religious” in his role as America’s most senior diplomat.

Speaking from Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, Pompeo, who has spoken openly about his Christian faith, stressed the importance of faith in the United States, and the role it plays in his job.

“We know America is at its best when faith is in the public square,” he said. “We defend human rights inside of our borders and outside of our borders like no other nation in the history of civilization. And we’re not perfect. We get it wrong sometimes. Indeed, in America, our—some of our greatest failings have been when we didn’t acknowledge the place that faith must play in our lives.”

Returning from a tour of four nations, Pompeo addressed the role of his faith as he serves as America’s top diplomat, responding to recent remarks by former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice.

“Mike Pompeo has been an overtly religious secretary of state, which in itself is problematic because again he’s supposed to represent all of America, all of our religions,” Rice told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in August.

Pompeo also responded to a New York Times (NYT) news analysis that said his discussing Christianity and foreign policy has “increasingly raised questions about the extent to which evangelical beliefs are influencing American diplomacy.”

“It [NYT] said—it says, ‘no secretary of state in recent decades has been as open and fervent as Mr. Pompeo about discussing Christianity and foreign policy in the same breath,’” he said.


Pompeo and Netanyahu.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make joint statements during a news conference after a meeting in Jerusalem on Aug. 24, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool via Reuters)

“Look, connecting faith to America’s foreign policy is an imperative. It’s important. It’s a good thing. I was reminded of that just this week, just this past week,” Pompeo said, noting that he was at the Sept. 15 White House ceremony as two historic Middle East peace deals were signed between two Arab states and Israel.

“Many things that we did enabled that. The president made the decision to recognize this biblical land and Jerusalem as the rightful capital of that nation.

“But in the end, those leaders, both in public and in private, made very clear that they were adamant that their faith was at the center of this accomplishment, what it is we were collectively able to achieve,” Pompeo said.

“Even though these nations had and likely will have disagreements on many things for time to come, I am confident that their faith was what drove them to be able to get to the right place to make these good decisions for both of their peoples. It is no coincidence that the historic agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Israel and Bahrain are known as the Abraham Accords.”

Faith, Pompeo added, is not only powerful but required by the American tradition.

“Especially in these challenging times, keeping faith in the public square is not simply acceptable, but it’s an imperative,” he said. “The fact that we are human beings; our founders recognized that. And these men—these amazing men back 240-plus years ago—enshrined it in our core documents that faith would in fact be in the public square. We need to live up to that each and every day.

“In America, we have a very broad understanding. If you have no faith and that is your choice, we rightly don’t permit a national government to establish a state religion. But everyone in this room knows what nations look like when religious freedom is stomped out and faith in the public square is eliminated.”

Pompeo pointed to nations where freedom of religion has been banished from the public square, saying that the most “egregious example” today is perhaps the Chinese Communist Party and its treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities—more than 1 million of whom have been detained in a network of detention facilities in the Xinjiang region.

“Forced sterilizations, forced abortions, today, in the world in which we inhabit,” Pompeo said. “They are submitted—subjected to torture, and worse.”

“It’s part of the Chinese Communist Party’s constant attack on faith. It’s a war on faith that’s been happening for decades. The United States for the first time in many years is taking this on under President Trump in a serious way.”

Responding to Rice’s criticism of Pompeo, Ashley McGuire of The Catholic Association said that she believes the remark “perpetuates the Democratic Party’s pattern of anti-religious bigotry.”

“Democrats have made it clear that they think faith has no place out in the open in America,” McGuire told the Washington Free Beacon. “In fact it is America’s long-standing tradition of protecting the right of people of all faiths, including those who hold public office, to speak openly about their beliefs, that has made this a pluralistic country.”