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IRD Hails New Appointments to Global Religious Freedom Watchdog

Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, jwalton@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Two religious liberty advocates appointed this week to serve as Commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) are being met with sharply differing responses. Both Dr. Robert P. George of Princeton University and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy were met with enthusiastic approval from the Institute on Religion and Democracy's religious liberty director, while the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the liberal think tank Center for American Progress sharply criticized the appointments.

George has a high profile arguing for traditional marriage while Jasser is a critic of radical Islam. Both appointees are experienced in combating threats to religious liberty. George was appointed by Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner. Jasser was appointed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

George, who is Roman Catholic, is a board member emeritus of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Jasser is Muslim. His organization advocates 'for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state.'

An independent U.S. government commission, the USCIRF was created by the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998. The commission was threatened in 2011 when re-authorization was held up in the Senate.

IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:

    "The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is critical to U.S. advocacy for those who are persecuted for their faith around the world. George and Jasser are both men of great integrity and courage. They will be tremendous assets to the Commission.

    "George has been a leader in battling threats to religious freedom on the domestic front, but this has not led him to the myopia that sometimes appears to afflict those involved in that set of issues. George's appreciation for and the value he places in the religious freedom guaranteed under our Constitution and universality of human rights as given by God makes him a passionate defender of international religious liberty.

    "As a Muslim who seeks to confront 'the ideologies of political Islam' and openly counter 'the common belief that the Muslim faith is inextricably rooted to the concept of the Islamic State (Islamism),' Jasser will provide great insight as the Commission investigates human rights violations that stem from adherence to this very concept."