U.S. Ambassador for Religious Liberty Nominated

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 27, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The White House nominated John V. Hanford, a longtime foreign affairs aide to U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, to be U.S. ambassador at large for international religious liberty, the Washington Times reported.

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If confirmed, Hanford will fill a post left vacant for a year. He said he is eager to work “on the vital issue of human rights.”

The announcement comes a week after President George W. Bush appointed three new members to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. That filled all the commission´s nine slots and allowed it on Monday to elect a chairman.

The commission elected Michael K. Young, dean of the George Washington University Law School, as chairman. The nine-member panel serves through May 2003.

Under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which established the panel and the ambassador´s post, Hanford´s confirmation would give him the 10th vote on commission policies.

The ambassador oversees an annual report on religious liberty abroad and recommends to the secretary of state possible sanctions against nations that are the worst offenders against religious freedom.

The nine-member commission also issues a report and, being independent, can be critical of both administration policy and foreign countries with horrific human rights records.

The new Bush appointments to the religious freedom commission are Catholic Bishop William F. Murphy of the Rockville Centre Diocese in New York state; Leila Nadya Sadat, a Muslim law professor; and the Reverend Richard Land, head of religious liberty for the Southern Baptist Convention.

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