Religious Freedom Ambassador (Finally) Named

After months of being criticized for failing to fill the position, President Obama has nominated an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Suzan Johnson Cook is a Baptist pastor with little political experience. She has been a chaplain for the New York Police Department, was an adviser on President Clinton’s Domestic Policy Council, and is the founder of something called the Wisdom Worldwide Center. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised her as “an experienced religious leader with a passion for human rights and an impressive record of public service.”
As William Wan and Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post note:

Cook’s name had been out there for months … so there has been plenty of time for the self-described international religious freedom community to react. Reaction has been pretty uniform—respect for Cook’s work in building a New York City-based mega-ministry and in her interest in public service, but concern for the lack of any expertise in international religious freedom and human rights work, or foreign policy work in general.

Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, points out:

Her predecessors as Ambassador-at-Large were, in the Clinton Administration, Robert A. Seiple, who came to the job having served as president for 11 years of World Vision, Inc., the huge Christian relief and development agency. In the Bush administration, it was John V. Hanford, who had spent 14 years working on international religious issues for Sen. Richard Lugar and who also played a critical role in drafting the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which established the Ambassador-at-Large position.

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