April 27, 2011

11RNS: Senate Confirms Religious Freedom Ambassador

Senate Confirms Religious
Freedom Ambassador

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                              ©2011 Religion News Service
A New York minister will soon fill the Obama administration's long-vacant position to oversee international religious freedom after the Senate voted to confirm the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook for the post.
Thursday's (April 14) voice vote positions Cook to become the first female and the first African-American in the post after a lengthy and controversial nomination process.
"I am ... persuaded in my mind, heart, and soul that religious freedom is the birthright of all people everywhere; a foundation of civil society, a key to international security, and it must always be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy," cook said in a statement.
Cook declined further comment until after she is sworn in. She was nominated last June, but her nomination stalled in the Senate and expired in December. Despite concerns that she might not have enough diplomatic experience, Cook was renominated in February and appeared at a second nomination hearing in late March.
The Baptist minister known as "Dr. Sujay" retired in 2009 as pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Church, which she founded in 1996. She was the first woman elected to lead the prominent Hampton University Minister's Conference of Black clergy.
During hearings, Cook cited her travels and interfaith work on five continents and her experience as a New York police chaplain as qualifications for the ambassadorial post.
The independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom welcomed Cook as the third ambassador to oversee international religious liberty. "We look forward to meeting her and working jointly toward our mutual goal of advancing freedom of religion or belief around the world," said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair.