The United States has a new State Department advocate for religious liberty overseas.
The U.S. Senate confirmed David Saperstein as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in a 62-35 roll-call vote Dec. 12. Saperstein, a long-time proponent of global religious liberty, has been director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for more than three decades.
Saperstein’s confirmation ended a 14-month long vacancy during which religious freedom advocates urged first President Obama, then the Senate, to fill the post at a time when people of faith and America’s reputation as a defender of religious liberty were suffering increasingly around the world.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s lead religious freedom advocate thanked the Senate for its action.
“In this hour, we need all the diplomatic and intellectual energy we can muster on these issues of human rights and global security,” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said. He said Saperstein will have his “full cooperation and support in the cause of protecting religious freedom around the world.”
Obama’s selection of Saperstein evoked misgivings from the ERLC, as well as other pro-life and religious freedom organizations, because of the nominee’s liberal stances on domestic issues such as abortion and gay rights.
Saperstein’s assurances since his nomination have helped satisfy concerns, said a leading advocate for overseas religious liberty.
Saperstein won conservatives’ support “by assuring them that he will advocate for religious freedom for all religious groups, including those that might oppose him on issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage (no easy undertaking in an administration that has mounted assaults on domestic religious groups over those very issues),” wrote Thomas Farr in a mid-November blog post. Farr is director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
He has gained respect as well “by convincing [conservatives] he will work very hard to elevate the status of his office, policy, and position within the State Department,” wrote Farr, a former U.S. diplomat. “He clearly wants to make a difference in the growing crisis of religious freedom, especially in the Middle East.
“In short, many conservatives trust Saperstein even though they disagree with him,” Farr said. “This is rare in Washington, D.C.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press