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Biden names Catholic activist Stephen Schneck to religious freedom panel

‘I’m proud and humbled by President Biden’s appointment,’ Schneck told Religion News Service.

Stephen Schneck in a 2020 video. Video screen grab

(RNS) — Stephen Schneck, a prominent Catholic political activist and academic, has been appointed by President Joe Biden to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal government panel dedicated to protecting religious minorities and other persecuted groups abroad.

Schneck, 69, confirmed his appointment on Wednesday (June 15) in an email to Religion News Service.

“I’m proud and humbled by President Biden’s appointment,” Schneck wrote. “The tragic truth is that two-thirds of the world’s population lives without the full promise of religious freedom. Indeed, instances of persecution for religious belief are rising amidst the nationalist populism that is surging around the globe. The Commission’s work is daunting but critical in our time.”

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998. Its members are appointed by both Congress and the White House. Its primary duty is to issue an annual report, which generally appears in May, examining the state of religious freedom across the globe.

Schneck spent much of his career as a dean and an associate professor at Catholic University of America, where he headed CUA’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. His academic work was focused on 18th-century American political thought.

But he has been an increasingly public voice in Catholic social justice advocacy, and until recently he was executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, a Catholic advocacy group that seeks to “transform United States public policy related to peace making, care for creation, poverty, and human rights,” according to its website.

In 2020, Schneck served as the national co-chair of Catholics for Biden, which rallied his co-religionists to Biden’s campaign. He co-chaired Catholics for Obama during former President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign as well.

Schneck was also appointed to Obama’s White House Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2015.