At the first World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians, held in Washington, D.C., two months ago — organized by the Rev. Franklin Graham — Vice President Mike Pence told a delighted audience that President Trump was committed to “defending Christians.” The audience included Christians from all over the world who had suffered for their faith. Pence also stated this would be a foreign policy “priority” of the administration — welcome news after the hostility of the Barack Obama years.

Right before the election, candidate Donald Trump promised viewers of the Christian Broadcasting Network that if he won, he would be “the greatest representative of the Christians they’ve had in a long time.”

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As someone who visited Iraq right before the November election and right after it, I saw myself how Trump’s words of support for persecuted Christians and his commitment to prioritize them as genocide victims gave tremendous hope to a people who had suffered so much. These same people had little respect for the Obama administration, which they felt had abandoned them. Time and again, people who had lost everything to ISIS — including even their wedding rings — told me they “loved Donald Trump.” They believed that as a “strong man,” he would help them when no one else would.

Last week disturbing reports emerged, alleging that Richard Visek, head of the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department — and an Obama appointee — had been instructing employees to remove all references to the “genocide” declaration that then-Secretary of State John Kerry made in March 2016. The designation applied to Christians, Yazidis and other minorities who suffered and are continuing to suffer at the hands of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  It was reported that speeches and official documents will now have the word “genocide” excised — a political move with disastrous ramifications for persecuted Christians.

Kerry’s genocide determination, it should be remembered, came after months of painstaking evidence-gathering and legal submissions — and was vigorously opposed by many in the Obama administration and others who knew such a definition would have considerable legal and political consequences. Sources are saying that State Department staff are “spinning” the line that Kerry’s genocide determination was merely a private statement — a stunning example not of fake news, but of utter falsehood.

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On Thursday, Heather Nauert, the press secretary at the State Department, denied that references to genocide were being removed — but also critically refused to answer the question of whether attorneys at the State Department have actually prevented the word from being used in speeches or reports on the issue. She also said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “believes” ISIS is responsible for genocide against Christians and religious minorities. But again, is this the “spin” of the secretary’s “personal” belief — or the actual view of the State Department?

Related: Five Facts About the Man Tapped for Trump’s Int’l Religious Freedom Post

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This is not just a matter of semantics. These words matter.

Millions of dollars in aid for the persecuted Christians and other minorities rest on the genocide definition — and for this to happen under Trump’s watch, by an Obama appointee who remains deep in the swamp, is both shocking and scandalous. (go to page 2 to continue reading) [lz_pagination]