U.S. Appoints New Ambassador for International Religious Freedom

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on 15 June 2010 President Barack Obama’s nomination of Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, filling an 18-month vacancy in this critical diplomatic post. “Dr. Johnson Cook is an experienced religious leader with a passion for human rights and an impressive record of public service,” said Secretary Clinton. “President Obama could not have found a more fitting choice for this important position.” Dr. Johnson Cook will serve as a principal advisor on religious freedom to President and the Secretary of State, supported by the Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

      Dr. Johnson Cook holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Emerson College, Master of Arts from Columbia University, Teachers College, Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, and Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary. She taught at the New York Theological Seminary from 1988-1996 and is a Founder/Board Member of the Multi-Ethnic Center (an enrichment program for youth), of which she has been Executive Director since 1996.  She was co-Partner/Owner of Jonco Productions from 1994-2009 and is the Founder and President of Wisdom Worldwide Center and the owner of Charisma Speakers. From 1983-1996 she served as Senior Pastor to the Mariners Temple Baptist Church and has served as Senior Pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in New York City since 1996 and as chaplain to the New York City Police Department since 1990. She served as an advisor on President Clinton’s Domestic Policy Council.
      Also part of the 15 June announcement were two appointments to the nine-member U.S. Commission on International Religious FreedomFelice D. Gaer and Dr. William J. Shaw.  Dr. Shaw is Immediate Past President of the National Baptist Convention, USA. Inc. and Pastor of White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Ms. Gaer, who has served on the Commission since 2001, including three times as Chair, three times as Vice Chair, and one time on the Executive Committee, was originally appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). A graduate of Wellesley College, Ms. Gaer directs the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee.  She was 2010 Regents Professor at UCLA and remains the first American to serve as an Independent Expert on the UN Committee against Torture.
      Membership of the Commission is defined in Section 201 of the International Religious Freedom Act. Three Commissioners are selected by the President, three by the Senate, and three by the House.” Current members of the Commission may be viewed here.
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