[Politico] White House taps Pence aide for religious freedom role

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An aide to Vice President Mike Pence is expected to be named to a National Security Council-based post overseeing the Trump administration’s international religious freedom efforts.

Sarah Makin’s planned new role, confirmed by two senior administration officials, is just the latest example of how President Donald Trump and his aides have prioritized promoting religious freedom.

Ending the oppression of religious minorities has long been a rallying cry for human rights activists worldwide, and many have praised the Trump team’s efforts. Religious freedom also is a top cause of evangelical Christians in Trump’s political base, many of whom are distressed by the persecution of their co-religionists in the Middle East and beyond.

Makin, whose last name is also listed as Makin-Acciani in online bios, will report to the National Security Council and the vice president’s office, according to one of the senior administration officials. A second official stressed that details were still being worked out and Makin may leave the vice president's team entirely.

On LinkedIn, Makin, a University of Connecticut graduate, lists her title as a deputy assistant to the president; various reports also describe her as Pence’s director of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs. She’s worked in the past as a congressional aide and as a lobbyist, according to online documents and media reports. She is one of only a few original staffers left in the vice president’s office, having been tapped by Pence to join his team in early January 2017.

Pence, an evangelical Christian, has been a vocal proponent of the religious freedom agenda – to the point of controversy. An investigation by ProPublica published in November detailed how Pence and his aides – including Makin – had intervened to steer U.S. aid to Christians overseas in ways critics said was inappropriate and counter-productive.

Asked for comment, a National Security Council spokesman said, “We don’t discuss personnel matters.” Makin did not reply to a message.

The Trump administration already has in place an ambassador-at-large focused on promoting religious freedom. That position, which is based at the State Department, is held by former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who has a long history of promoting religious liberty and helped author the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act when he was a senator.

The 1998 law establishes the ambassador’s position. It also recommends that a special adviser on international religious freedom be based at the National Security Council, although it was not clear if that’s the position Makin is taking.

Her duties have yet to be spelled out publicly, but it’s likely that Makin will be involved in several of the Trump administration’s religious freedom initiatives.

For instance, the administration has held annual high-level government gatherings focused on the topic. It also has announced the launch of the International Religious Freedom Alliance, a still vague initiative, details of which will reportedly be unveiled alongside this week’s National Prayer Breakfast.

Trump aides also have been weighing a proposal to condition U.S. development, humanitarian and possibly military aid to other countries on how they treat religious minorities.

Source Politco

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