The Trump administration made an announcement Thursday that perfectly captured the direction—and foibles—of foreign policy in Washington. At the State Department’s first-ever “ministerial to advance religious freedom,” Vice President Pence revealed that the U.S. would impose “significant sanctions” on Turkey until Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been detained there for nearly two years, is released. President Trump followed up with a tweet, calling Brunson “a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being” and adding that “this innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”
Yet, just last week, Trump was criticized by leaders across the political spectrum for, according to one account, “fist bumping” Turkish president Recep Erdogan—whose regime is responsible for imprisoning Brunson along with scores of journalists and civil-society leaders—and commenting that he “does things the right way.”
This ministerial, which is really just a fancy word for “big meeting,” could be interpreted as the unveiling of an element of the Trump administration’s foreign-policy strategy. For the last three days, delegations from around the world have gathered to hear victims of religious persecution share their stories. American officials have declared in no uncertain terms that they believe the United States should evangelize religious liberty around the world, and that democracy is built on a foundation of freedom in faith.