Foreign Policy reported this week that a short list leaked from the State Department contains the names of three possible candidates to fill the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
Top contender reportedly is Kenneth Starr, who has spoken and written widely on freedom of religion or belief and serves on the board of Advocates International, a network of lawyers who work on behalf of religious liberty. He was instrumental in connecting Baylor with the 2011-2016 Georgetown University Religious Freedom Project, the only university-based forum for religious freedom programs.
Starr is a former federal judge, U.S. solicitor general and became well known for prosecuting President Bill Clinton. In 2016, Starr was demoted from president to chancellor at Baylor University for ignoring allegations of rape against Baylor football players.
The unofficial list of candidates also includes Nina Shea, international human rights lawyer, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, and former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
She has been a delegate for human rights to the United Nations and UNESCO and was instrumental in gaining passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Johnnie Moore, described as “an evangelical with a good reputation across partisan and religious lines,” is a third possible appointee. He is credited with an important role in getting the House, Senate and U.K. Parliament to identify ISIS violence against Christians as “genocide.” Moore has established several organizations to aid persecuted religious minorities and raised millions for humanitarian aide. He serves on numerous evangelical boards, was vice president of Liberty University and founder of The Kairos Co. public relations firm.
In early February a letter was sent to the President from 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, signed by 715 human and religious rights advocates, urging rapid appointment of a new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. The post was vacant for many months during the previous two administrations.
The Ambassador-at-Large post was most recently held by Rabbi David Saperstein, a President Obama appointee who served from January 2015 to January 20, 2017. At a Religion News Foundation panel discussion in Washington, D.C., this week, former Ambassador Saperstein assessed U.S. accomplishments in promoting religious freedom abroad.
From the USCIRF website: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties.