Bias at the Religious Freedom Commission

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Wolcott.jpgHere you’ve got the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom struggling to get out from under persistent (and, yes, reasonable) charges that it is more interested in making the Muslim world safe for Christian missionaries than in evenhandedly tracking religious freedom issues around the globe. And who does it appoint as its new executive director? Jackie Wolcott, a former Bush administration nuclear proliferation expert with no experience dealing with religious freedom, who most recently has served on the Advisory Board of United Against Nuclear Iran, “a non-profit
organization dedicated to preventing a nuclear Iran and exposing Iran
as a major violator of human rights at home and abroad.”

Bias? The appointment certainly gives the appearance thereof. All the more reason for the State Department to get on the stick and name its religious freedom ambassador. The commission, always a bit of a loose cannon, looks like it’s about to go off the rails big time.

  • Leonard Leo

    In his blog post of today (2/24/10) on newly Appointed USCIRF Executive Director Jackie Wolcott, Mark Silcon states that she has “no experience dealing with religious freedom.” That’s not correct.
    In her capacity as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, a position she held from 1990-93 and then from 2001-03, Ambassador Wolcott worked on a number of resolutions and other matters dealing with international freedom of religion issues, including: combating defamation of religions; the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance; the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which specifically included the work of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion; and the situation of human rights in Turkmenistan, which specifically included the issue of compulsory military service affecting objecting religious minorities. She also met with a number of religious minorities to discuss their plight, including Baha’is. Her work revolved around resolutions that were brought before the Commission on Human Rights, the General Assembly, and ECOSOC.
    It also bears noting that, when Jackie Wolcott served as Ambassador to the UN Security Council from 2006-08, in the context of a number of regional conflicts she had to deal with, religious persecution was an important part of the deliberations, including in connection with Sudan, Eritrea, and Burma.
    We assumed that, from the positions Ambassador Wolcott has held, people who are generally familiar with international freedom of religion would know that she delved into the subject. But that apparently is not the case, at least for some.
    Hopefully this clarifies the record.
    Leonard A. Leo
    Chairman, US Commission on International Religious Freedom

  • Mark Silk

    Well, it might have been helpful for us ignoramuses had the Commission chosen to include a sentence about Wolcott’s prior engagement with religion freedom issues in her bio. Meanwhile, Leo’s response to the bias issue is conspicuous by its absence.