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Obama Sends Religious Freedom Nominee Back to Senate Despite Concerns

4 years ago
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President Obama has re-nominated a New York pastor and motivational speaker, Suzan Johnson Cook, also known as "Dr. Sujay," to be his ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom despite widespread concerns about her qualifications for the post and a Senate "hold" that halted her confirmation last year.

Obama waited until last June to fill a post that had already been low on the diplomatic pecking order despite the critical importance of the issue, as recent events in Egypt and the rest of the Muslim world have shown. And Johnson Cook, a Baptist pastor from the Bronx, was from the start cast as too much of a lightweight for such a job: She has been a chaplain to the New York City Police Department, has written books of spiritual uplift, and was described in a 2002 New York Times story as "Billy Graham and Oprah rolled into one."

That wasn't what Sen. Jim DeMint, the conservative South Carolina Republican, was looking for in the nation's chief promoter of religious freedom overseas, and he reportedly put a hold on her nomination, which then expired over the Christmas recess. But it didn't seem there was a lot of enthusiasm for Cook anywhere else, either. Her November confirmation hearing was perfunctory -- she was asked one question, and Sen. John Kerry, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee vetting her, wasn't present.

Obama did not include Johnson Cook among his recess appointments in early January, and some advocates for religious freedom rights used that opening to drum up support for the issue, and perhaps for a different nominee if necessary.

For example, Thomas F. Farr, a former diplomat who heads the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, sent out an e-mail appeal in late January asking activists to lobby the White House to put a greater emphasis on international religious freedom and the post of ambassador-at-large.

"There is, it seems to me, good reason to be alarmed by the administration's utter indifference to reinvigorating US international religious freedom policy," Farr wrote. An influential and experienced voice in that post was necessary "to address more effectively, for example, the increasing persecution of Christians in the Middle East, or the continued growth of Islamist extremism."

Farr wrote that if no pressure were forthcoming, Johnson Cook would likely be re-nominated and the issue would probably continue to take a back seat. That seems to be what happened, as Farr had predicted:

"Bottom line: there is virtually no pressure -- public or private -- for the White House, the State Department, or the Democrat-controlled Senate to treat US religious freedom policy with any seriousness."

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Congress has every right to reject this nominee is they do not believe she is qualified to serve America in this position. It's why the process is in place to begin with. If they simply act as a rubber stamp, what's the point?

February 09 2011 at 6:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
The Skiteks

I tried reading this story two times and I still don't get it. I guess it's the position that doesn't make sense. It isn't necessary or appropriate.

February 09 2011 at 9:05 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I think the writer of this article is mistaken about the democrats not taking this serious. I think it was a Republican that halted the process. You guys kill me.. You either think the American people are stupid or just don't care enough to actually read your work..

February 09 2011 at 9:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

To Jean Robinson:

Please do your research (as I just did) and you will find that this a position REQUIRED by the 1998 International Religion Freedom Act passed unanimously by Congress.

So as much as you would like to further your "Obama the Scary Muslim" Theory, you would also have to accuse the 1998 Congress, Pres. Clinton, and Pres. George W. Bush of being scary Muslims too.

February 08 2011 at 11:58 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dodiereese's comment

If Congress passed legislation as recently as 1998 requiring this position, I take it as more evidence of Congress's overstepping its powers recklessly.

February 09 2011 at 9:18 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Jean Robinson

Obama creates these positions for the benefit of his black and extremest friends to further his Muslim agenda. We do not need anyone to monitor our religious freedoms and we sure can't do anything about other countries religions. Look at Eqypt...

February 08 2011 at 9:36 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

Why is this position appropriate at all?

February 08 2011 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Michael's comment
Jean Robinson

It isn't!!!

February 08 2011 at 9:11 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

I'm glad you people are not in any position at all. You just don't get it.

February 09 2011 at 9:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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