John Fuller: Today, on Focus on the Family, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shares his thoughts about our incredible system of government, which allows us our cherished freedoms of speech and religion.
Mike Pompeo: I see people chased off campus who can’t speak because of their ideas, it concerns me. It doesn’t matter if they’re speaking from the left or the right…
Jim Daly: Right.
Mike: …Or from some – these are the central places where ideas are to be exchanged. Uh, we have the opportunity to pray and to worship here in America. That is special and unique, and I think bodes well for our republic for the next 200 and some odd years.
End of Excerpt
John: Well, this is Focus on the Family, with your host, Focus president Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, you had the privilege just a few days ago to interview U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.
Jim: Yeah, John, it was a great experience. Secretary Pompeo is such a gracious person. And of course, he’s uh, a Christian, and I love his insights. I mean, he is a person who exemplifies his faith by doing the best job he can do. And I had met with him a few months prior, and that’s what caught my attention – was his driving example of what it means to be a Christian kind of in Caesar’s court. You know, when you’re working in a secular government space, uh, you’re gonna be called upon to do a lot of things that you may not personally agree with. And it was fascinating to me, when I talked to him that first time, how he said, “The best way to exemplify my faith is to be the best Secretary of State I can be.” And that just captivated me. It’s so applicable to all of us as Christians. Be the best, vocationally, you can be, because it brings respect. And uh, it was great to talk with him about the issue of religious liberty and several other topics.
John: Well, he has quite an impressive resume. Uh, before becoming Secretary of State about a year ago, Mr. Pompeo served as the director of the CIA. And before that he was a U.S. Congressman representing the state of Kansas from 2010 to 2017. And then prior to his government service, he was a businessman, and he also graduated from Harvard Law School and West Point Military Academy…
Jim: Yeah, amazing.
John: …by the way.
Jim: And number one in his class at West Point.
John: Well, let’s go ahead and hear the conversation now between Jim Daly and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Jim: Mr. Secretary, uh, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Mike: It’s great to be with you.
Jim: Let me, uh, start, for the listeners’ sake, let me start with, um, your background – your faith. Uh, when did you say, “Okay. I think what Jesus said actually is true?”
Mike: So, I grew up in southern California. I went to church. My parents took us to church, but it wasn’t a central part of my life…
Mike: …Growing up. Uh, when I – my sister was, she was in church groups and that kind of thing, and I was very focused on basketball and school.
Jim: That sounds like me.
Mike: Uh, and – but when I went off to school, when I got to the United States Military Academy, there were a couple cadets who were a couple of years older than me. They hosted a – I now know as a bible study, but for me it was a gathering and they served cookies. Uh, and these two, were now, they were young men at the time, truly led me to where I am today. They came, they taught me bible lessons that I’d known from my time growing up…
Mike: …but I revisited them and really uh, really turned me in the direction of my current commitment to Jesus Christ.
Mike: It’s really – so I would have been 18 or 19 years old, at the time.
Jim: You know, sometimes in the culture, many people don’t understand that. They don’t believe in God. They don’t have that core conviction that there’s something bigger than us. Is it difficult to maintain that faith in an environment where you’re sometimes criticized for being a person of faith?
Mike: For those of us who have, this is the central part of who they are, and who – who spend time thinking about it and focused on it, we have our jobs. I have my duty to the Constitution, I work for President Trump. But I also know who I am. The things that impact me and the way that I try to live my life, I fall short. But you work hard at it. It’s not difficult.
Mike: Uh, the folks will say things, folks will make criticisms. But my commitment, my understanding of this, I know it’s so much bigger. I think it’d be hard to do a job like this without an understanding that you operate in this context uh, where you understand that there are bad actors in the world, that there is evil in the world. Uh, but that we can work hard and we can try to deliver better outcomes for people. Uh, to know that you’re doing this in a context, in this incredibly unique nation that is the United States. It’s a real blessing for me to get to serve in this way. Uh, and I – I don’t struggle with understanding who I am and why it is I believe what I do.
Jim: I think that’s so solid. Let me ask you – we met a few months ago and you said something that really caught my attention. I asked you how difficult it is working as a Christian, kind of in Caesar’s palace. I’m not talking about the president, but just in this sphere of government.
Jim: Because of uh, you know, things that you have to witness and do. And especially as Secretary of State. You’re seeing things that most of us will never understand are going on in the world, and former CIA Director, so you’ve – you’ve had some critical roles in government. But you said um, about your Christian convictions, that, “The best way to show my faith is to be the best Secretary of State I could be.” And that – that really caught my attention, because so often, Christians – we want to wear our faith on our sleeve rather than do our best and let that be the example. Elaborate on that.
Mike: Well I – I firmly believe that. And everything that I’ve undertaken – I ran a small business, I was a tank platoon leader, I uh, I then had the privilege to run the Central Intelligence Agency. Now the State Department’s most senior official. In every one of those, people watch us. They watch how we behave. They watch our actions. Are they consistent with who we say we are? And this idea that by delivering excellence, by being true and speaking directly about who you are and what it is you’re trying accomplish. And how it is that fits into the larger efforts that we’re undertaking. I think if we do this, if we all do this with great excellence, then people of all of religious faiths who have commitment to their faith can do the same, and we’ll all come to a set of better understandings.
Jim: Well, and I think it’s a great example on how young people, college young people today, Christians, believers, should live their lives. I mean, in such a way with excellence, that people respect them. And it’s a great reminder, and your life has been that kind of reminder. Let’s talk about religious liberty. Um, you’ve been very supportive of religious liberty, globally. Why is it important that we protect religious liberty?
Mike: It’s uh, one of the most fundamental, sacred human rights is the right to practice your faith in the way that you desire to practice that faith. Or if you choose not to, to have the right to do that, as well. We don’t need government uh, forcing you to do that. It’s different from that. Fundamental different. We know that many places in the world aren’t like that, today. Uh, in India – there’s pockets in – in our own hemisphere where that freedom isn’t available. So, we’ve made a real focus on this issue. And so I speak about it in many countries to where I travel. We don’t hesitate to call out nations who refuse to grant that religious freedom to their people. And then we’ve added a structural component to this. A very positive direction where we reward countries, and we thank them for the good work as they make progress along their path towards extending religious freedoms. Uh, we held a ministerial – it’s the first time the State Department had ever done this. It was…
Jim: Describe what that is. A ministerial…
Mike: So, we had foreign ministers – yes. We had – it’s a good point. We had foreign ministers. So, people who are my counterparts. They’re Secretaries of State in these countries, and some of their team members came here. There were 60 plus countries uh, in the summer of last year. And they gathered here in Washington, D.C. We had a number of meetings. We had religious figures from all across the religious spectrum. We had Jewish leaders, and Muslim leaders, and Christian leaders, and Bahai leaders. We had leaders from all across the religious spectrum. And they gathered here to talk about the importance of ensuring the country that they came from granted all of their people the opportunity to worship in they wanted to. It was a wonderful meeting. It spawned lots of things, so we’ve had these in other countries now, over these past few months. Uh, when it was here in Washington, other groups used that opportunity to get together. You saw uh, interfaith meetings that were just absolutely extraordinary.
Mike: It advanced the American mission set, which is that we developed better relationships with these countries through this, as well. And it was so wonderful. We’re gonna do it again this summer. It’s gonna be the middle of July. And I hope the whole world will watch. I’m sure we’ll have more countries there. We’ll have an even broader spectrum of religious leaders. And we will continue to expand the central notion, and in our country it’s enshrined in our Constitution, it’s in our First Amendment, this idea that you have the unambiguous right to practice your faith, and we’d like to see that extended more broadly around the world.
Jim: Well, let me say on behalf of the Focus listenership, thank you for doing these things. Because it’s refreshing to see you know, government actually stand for things that we certainly believe in. You know, when you look at it, Mr. Secretary, pluralism – it’s something I think the Christian community has embraced. I mean, I don’t hear negative things about others choosing a different path in their life. I really don’t. I think Christians get a bad rap for being negative or monsters.
Jim: I – you know, it’s unfortunate, because I think the Judeo-Christian values of this country have allowed people, even like the LGBT community, to rise up, to get a seat at the table, to have expression in a pluralistic culture. I think, for us as Christians, it’s about let’s compete in the arena of ideas. Let’s talk about faith. Are we created in God’s image? And I just so appreciate the fact that President Trump and you support those ideals.
Mike: I think your point’s well taken. You know, I – I watch the increase in anti-Semitic acts in Europe, and even here in the United States. Uh, and it reminds you of this enormous need for religious freedom and for religious tolerance. And for understanding. I’m a Christian. I’m an evangelical Christian. I believe what I do, deeply. Others hold their views. Um, we ought to be able to have good exchanges. Uh, and I think when that happens, everyone rises.
Mike: I think people who believe in their own faith rise. I think people who choose not to have a faith at this point in their life, I think they – they get more opportunities – well, this is a very Christian understanding, and it’s a very deeply held American understanding, as well.
Jim: Yeah. I agree. Mexico City. You’ve been very bold with supporting the expansion of the Mexico City Policy. Describe what that is and why the administration feels boldly about the idea of life.
Mike: So the Mexico City Policy uh, began with President Reagan. Uh, where he first made clear that uh, money that was taken from our tax payers was not going to be used to fund or otherwise underwrite the taking of human life through abortion.
Jim: That’s seems so reasonable.
Mike: Yeah, uh, yes. Having said that, other presidents have chosen to undo that or to reduce it. But we’ve now taken a good look at the process and we became very concerned that there were gaps. Uh, that there were subcontracting issues. And it gets pretty complicated…
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Mike: …pretty fast. But nonetheless, the principle that we were attempting to honor wasn’t being fully fulfilled. So I’ve taken the lead here at the State Department to make sure that those gaps don’t exist. So we expanded the policy to include lots of other elements with the simple goal of women’s health – we want to spend all the dollars to make sure that women have the opportunity to maintain their good health. But we don’t want a single dollar going towards abortion or abortion-related services. And our efforts in that regard are something that we’re very proud of.
Jim: Well, and I – I, again, I so appreciate that because I think the statistic I have uh, understood is that taxpayers provide like 1.3 million dollars a day to Planned Parenthood. And for those of us that don’t support abortion, I think it’s just wrong that they should take our taxpayer money and end innocent human life with it. Um, it’s just – I know it’s controversial, but that’s the way we believe in the Christian community, for the most part.
Mike: And here at the State Department, ours relates to foreign assistance. What we’re doing with foreign governments and uh, non-governmental organizations inside of those countries. That’s the budget that we maintain, here. President Trump’s made clear he doesn’t want a single dollar going to abortion or abortion-related services. And our – our mission set and what we – we made an announcement. It’s probably been a month ago, now, uh, where we made that crystal clear and then took away some of the avenues where there was risk that that was happening.
Jim: Well, again, we so appreciate it. Let’s move to a more global perspective on persecution. Uh, with Sri Lanka – the bombings there. And then, you know, certainly the attacks on Muslims. What’s your overall sense, especially given your background as Director of CIA. Humanity does horrible things to each other, don’t we?
Mike: There is, uh, I’ve said this, and some have mocked me for it. It’s a – it’s a tough, nasty world out there in places. The evil exists. Uh, we know this from our “Book.”
Mike: But we can see this from our daily lives, as well. Um, these are truly terrible acts. Tragic acts. Inhumane acts. People are blowing people up. In some of these bombings, parents have blown up their own children.
Jim: Ugh, that’s (unintelligible).
Mike: I just think things that seem unfathomable, but yet it happens. Our – our mission is really two-fold here at the State Department. First, is to make sure that we protect America as best we can. So we develop systems and processes by which the risk that such an attack would take place here, uh, from an external terror threat. We see the things that are already happening in some of our places of religious worship here. It’s tragic, but to take down that risk. Uh, the second piece is to try and create the understandings which take away the ideological basis…
Mike: …for this. They’ll refute the central premise, the holistic premises that underlay some of this terror. And so, we have a – an educational role, as well. A diplomatic role there, uh, to try and create conditions where these events are fewer and further between.
Jim: How – how do you go about with governments like China and other governments, where persecution is on the rise, seemingly, toward the Christian church – how do those discussions go, that you can share publicly.
Jim: I mean, to influence. It – it’s unfortunate. I look at China and I think, “What an opportunity for that country to become even greater if they were to embrace the church.” Some two, three-hundred million who claim to be Christian in China. Uh, the power of that could be extremely positive for the culture in China, don’t you think?
Mike: You’ve actually made the same case that I make, when I travel and have the opportunity to speak uh, with world leaders or my counterparts. Uh, we talk to them about this. We first make clear this is unacceptable from the American perspective. We don’t pull any punches. Whether they are friends or adversaries. Uh, when we see these denials of religious freedom, we call them out. Whether it’s what’s taking place in Myanmar, what’s taking place in Xinjiang in China, whether it’s in a country in the Middle East. We are unambiguous in calling out abuses of religious freedom. The denial of religious freedom. This next thing is for us to do more than simply talk about it, but try to make a convincing case for why we see it the way we do, and how we think they ought to change the way and rethink it. So one of the arguments that we make, and I think it’s a very powerful, is to the extent you are persecuting a particular uh, religious group, uh, your country is diminished. Its influence in the world is diminished.
Mike: The willingness of companies to come invest in your country is diminished. Uh, your capacity to have influence at the United Nations and in global conversations is diminished. Um, these freedoms that America has so richly enjoyed and we have protected uh, for a couple hundred years now, have made America more special, more unique, and more powerful. And we urge them to move in that direction, as well.
Jim: Turning to ISIS – I mean, that’s been a battle for us. I remember uh, in fact, talking to President Bush, and he mentioned to me that it would probably take 50 years to defeat terrorism. I don’t know if that timeline is still accurate, but what would you say to our listeners about where that battle is? Uh, radical Islam and how to go about containing it? And what should we be praying for, as Christians, in that regard? Many Christians have been displaced. When I went to Iraq, I think there were 1.2 million Christians. I met many of them. The leadership there in Baghdad, most of them are dead or gone now.
Mike: Yeah. So the risk to Christians throughout the Middle East uh, remains great. Uh, there are fewer Christians there than uh, in the times that we read about in the bible. Uh…
Jim: And these are 2,000 year old communities.
Mike: These communities have been some of the original communities in these…
Mike: …in these countries. Certainly in the areas you’re talking about in northern Iraq. Uh, you know, the threat from radical Islamic terrorism remains. I don’t know about the timeline. It may take yet another 50 years. We’re now several – probably 15, 20 years on from your conversation. Uh, it may take yet that long. There’s good news. Um, we have reduced their capacity to conduct global efforts – big, large-scale global efforts. Uh, but boy, it’s pretty easy to build a bomb and put it in a rucksack…
Mike: …and go to the marathon in Boston, or enter a place of worship in Sri Lanka. Uh, the means by which to create this devastation and destruction is uh, pretty readily available. So we have the intelligence, the national security task, and then this other issue, which is to – to call it out and call out those governments who are creating permissive spaces for that – to allow this to take place because they think it’s an accommodation that won’t create a problem for them. And the people of the United States should know that their State Department is hard at work at this. Uh, we are using all of our economic power. All of our diplomatic power to take down this risk.
Jim: Well, and again, we so appreciate it. You made a – a visit to Israel. I’ve been a couple of times with Ray Vander Laan, our wonderful teacher. He’s done a series called, That the World May Know. It’s boot camp. As a former West Point cadet, you…
Mike: That’s pretty special to go there with Ray.
Jim: …would appreciate this. We did uh, I think we hiked 115 miles in 14 days. But in that context, the way that things are illuminated for you when you go to that land. You went and met with uh, Prime Minister Netanyahu. What is that like, representing government, but being a person of faith rooted in Judaism, the Christian faith? How was that special for you?
Mike: So it’s certainly special, personally, for me. Uh, this last trip I had a chance to also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Uh, in addition to go to the Western Wall with the Prime Minister, I was the first uh, senior U.S. government official to actually go to the Western Wall with the Prime Minister of Israel. It was historic and special. And so, for me, personally, it was really quite something. Something I’ll never forget. Uh, but I think it was also important for the world to see and for citizens across the United States to see. A Jewish leader, a leader of the United States, traveling to honor their faith, their commitment. The unique and special nature that is uh, this country of Israel. You’ve seen the actions that we have taken to support that nation.
Mike: Boldly. It – look, it’s a democratic institution in the heart of the Middle East. There’s enormous value to the United States in that. But also has a rich religious tradition uh, that is incredibly important as well, to ensure that we preserve. Uh, Christians are free to worship in Israel, as well. That’s one of the only places in the Middle East that they truly do have that opportunity. We hope that will…
Mike: …continue to expand. The Pope’s visit to the United Arab Emirates was really a special event, as well. So I think progress is being made, but there remains an awful lot of work to do.
Jim: This may be an odd question, but I’m – I’m just one, praying for you, often. And I’m thinking of you in your role and all the decision trees you have. I mean, and sometimes there, you know, faith doesn’t inform us in every decision that way. I mean, I’m sure in core things, it’s critical that you’re informed by your faith. And then there’s so many people that are critical no matter what you do. How do – how do you – A, I guess, how do you manage that decision-making, of course under the president’s leadership? But also, how do you handle just all the criticism?
Mike: So the first one’s uh, pretty straightforward. I try and bring every skill the Lord has given me to work every day. So I’m an engineer by training. I also had the – had the privilege of going to law school. So, that. I served as a soldier, so I’ve had a little bit of opportunity to understand about how America actually can deliver its – on its national security mission. And then I was in the private sector. And so I had a chance to truly connect with how commerce works and how uh, economies can grow. So, I try to bring all of those together every day to inform what I do. Uh, with respect to the criticism, I – I’ve been now in public life for almost 10 years, so a lot of people have been doing this longer. But for me, this seems like an awful long time. I have learned that so long as you’ve made your best effort, as you – if you’ve truly built out your team – my team here at the State Department. You’ve marshaled the facts and resources and the data. And you’ve made the best decision, or you’ve informed the president in the way you know best how to do. That there’s going to be people be critical from all over the place, uh, they’re free to make their points. I listen to them when it is an argument that is made out of logic. If it’s just name calling it goes off my back.
Mike: Um, but if there’s a logical, I’m happy to take their ideas on board and sometimes we get it wrong. And to learn from their critiques and to try and make a better decision next time.
Jim: That sound extremely healthy…
Mike: It’s pretty simple…
Mike: It’s actually pretty simple.
Jim: Pretty simple. Uh, last question. And again, I so appreciate you taking time during a lot of activity right now with Venezuela and everything else that’s happening. We deeply appreciate it. Um, in the American context, um, we’ve seen challenges to religious freedom. We’ve talked about that a bit. But we’ve seen it specifically in the courts, the media bias, universities, where it’s difficult for Christians to even express themselves. What do you think the Founding Fathers were trying to establish to make sure that people did have religious liberty, and that it could be maintained?
Mike: Yeah. Uh, so there’s lots of famous history about this. Uh, central to it was this idea of a republic. Right? Benjamin Franklin says, I think it was him, who said, uh, I’m sure your listeners will correct me if I’ve got that wrong. But he talked about, “It’s a republic, if you can keep it.”
Mike: Uh, and if you will continue to work hard at that, I’d – I’d urge every American, your listeners and all the others, to continue to work hard at this. We are imperfect actors. Uh, our nation is imperfect. Um, but what as unique as they built this structure, this system, that created these freedoms – these fundamental, foundational freedoms – religious freedom, the freedom of speech – that are so central to keeping this republic. If we will continue to honor them – that’s when I – when I see people chased off campus who can’t speak because of their ideas, it concerns me. It doesn’t matter if they’re speaking from the left or the right…
Mike: …Or from some – these are the central places where ideas are to be exchanged. We think about that when we travel in the world, too. We – we want every country to have this opportunity to hear, to listen. Uh, you know, we had – the foreign minister from the Islamic Republic of Iran had access to our airwaves this weekend. He went on the Sunday talk shows – Foreign Minister Zarif. He got a chance to speak to the American people about what they’re doing in Iran. I disagreed with almost everything that he said.
Mike: I would love the same chance to speak to the people in Iran about – I can’t. And I think nations are diminished when they don’t get a chance to hear these different ideas, and evaluate them and judge them, to be informed by their faith or their decision process. Our Founders were brilliant.
Jim: They were.
Mike: They understood this. If you tried to contain, if you tried to hold down, if you tried to create a resistance where an ideology would continue to (unintelligible), then you’d create a weaker nation. And instead, we’re rambunctious. We argue. We debate. Uh, we have the opportunity to pray and to worship here in America. That is special and unique, and I think bodes well for our republic for the next 200 and some odd years.
Jim: Well, and again, thank you for everything that you’re doing to preserve that right – religious liberty. The ministerial coming up this July – I’m sure that’s a good way for our folks to pray for you and to pray for the efforts of the government. Other things we might be able to pray about?
Mike: Yeah. Oh, always. Uh, pray for the nation. Uh, we have what’s going on in Venezuela. Pray for the Venezuelan people, that there won’t be violence uh, and that they’ll be successful at uh, creating a democracy that they have demanded.
Jim: Yeah. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for spending time with us.
Mike: Thank you, sir.
John: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been our guest on Focus on the Family. And that was recorded just a few days ago at the State Department in Washington, D.C. And uh, as you heard, the situation in Venezuela was very tenuous at the time of recording, and of course, it still is. So do keep praying for the people involved in that.
Jim: Uh, John, we so appreciated the Secretary spending that time with us. And it was a busy day. It took us 30 minutes just to get in because of the chaos of the day. Uh, you know, it seems that that is one of the hot spots in Washington, D.C. – is the State Department. Because there is something erupting almost every day somewhere. And you hear of Secretary Pompeo’s profile in the news, often. I mean, he’s flying all around the world, constantly, uh, trying to promote America’s agenda. But also, for him personally, I think, uh, promoting religious liberty at the core. Because I think he understands, as a student, how important religious liberty is to any people.
Um, it is very easy to be cynical and critical of the people in government. And I think that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to air this – was because there are some wonderful people working in our government that understand and believe in a Christian worldview. And we need, as the body of Christ, to be praying for these people – both men and women – and uh, put some of the politics aside. That’s gonna be just day to day stuff. But pray for God’s wisdom to pour through these people. And Secretary Pompeo, in my book, is certainly one of the most critical positions that we have. And I believe Secretary Pompeo is serving in his role for such a time as this. I mean, that’s biblical language. But I don’t think it’s a mistake that he’s in the position he’s in and promoting the things that he, along with the administration, obviously, want to promote. And at the top of the list is religious liberty.
John: Mmhmm. Yeah, I really appreciated what he said about the – the brilliance of the Founding Fathers in the form of government we have that allows for open dialogue and for that freedom of religious expression. That’s what we wanna see protected for Christians and people of other faiths, too.
Jim: That’s right. And while we come from a Christian perspective, obviously, we realize the importance of defending the right of people of other faiths and even non-faiths to express themselves in this country. That is what makes this country great. And I think the other thing is – I don’t think Christians should ever shrink back from that challenge of putting the ideas into the public square. Because I think Jesus is who He said He was. And we don’t have to shrink back or be embarrassed to express our Christian faith in the public square. Uh, he to me, is like a – a Paul going to Mars Hill, speaking to the Chinese government officials, to government officials around the world about what it is we believe. And – and I believe he represents us well.
John: Well, we wanna encourage you to stay engaged and uh, to continue learning about the world – praying for the world. And uh, certainly we have some great tools here at Focus on the Family. Let me point you to the Daily Citizen, which is our free, weekly e-newsletter that provides a summary of news stories that you might not have seen and you need to know about. So contact us today and subscribe to the Daily Citizen. It’s free, it’s timely, it’s relevant, and you’ll appreciate it. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY – or subscribe at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And uh, while you’re at the website, be sure to get the free download of today’s broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.