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Perkins appointed to international religious freedom watchdog group

May 21st, 2018 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

Perkins appointed to international religious freedom watchdog group

Southern Baptist leaders praised the swearing in May 17 of Tony Perkins as commissioner to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, will serve a two-year term on the bipartisan commission which serves as religious freedom watchdog for people of all faiths around the world.

Most notably associated with the cultural and political advocacy in the U.S. on issues relating to religious liberty and the sanctity of marriage and life, Perkins and the FRC have earned supporters and enemies, the latter condemning the USCIRF’s appointment of a “gay-rights opponent.” But former U.S. Rep. of Virginia and long-time international religious freedom advocate Frank Wolfe, whose 1998 legislation established the USCIRF, called Perkins’ appointment “fantastic.”

“I wholeheartedly support him as a USCIRF Commissioner, in which role I fully believe he will advocate vigorously for those of all faiths as a matter of international religious freedom,” Wolf said in a statement released by the FRC.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, appointed Perkins to the two-year term. The president and leadership of both political parties appoint commissioners to the volunteer positions. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, on May 10 reappointed Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, an associate professor at the Department of Human Communication Studies, California State University, Fullerton. Dorjee, first appointed in 2016, is recognized for his scholarship on Tibetan culture and religious freedom conditions in Iraq and Burma.

In recent years FRC’s advocacy has extended beyond the U.S. to address the plight of religious minorities overseas. Earlier this month the FRC called the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar “the worst humanitarian crisis no one is talking about.”

“Christians have always believed that every person should have the ability to choose their faith and live it out free from government discrimination,” Perkins said in a May 8 FRC post.

Southern Baptist Richard Land called the appointment “good news for people facing persecution for their religious beliefs around the world.”

Perkins was selected along with American Values President Gary Bauer, and best-selling author and Kairos Company President Johnnie Moore. Land, the former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, added, “These people are going to be outspoken on America’s freedom of conscience around the world.”

Jack Graham, pastor Prestonwood Baptist Church, applauded Perkins’ appointment based on his work at FRC.

“In a time when three out of four people live in countries where their faith makes them targets of harassment and violence, it has never been more imperative to defend religious freedom,” Graham told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “In all my life, I don’t think I have met anyone more committed to defending the individual right of conscience than Tony. He’s a champion for religious freedom with a proven track record and unquestionable character. The global community is better for having Tony’s leadership on the USCIRF."

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) called Perkins “a solid choice to help the Commission continue its important mission to monitor and protect the universal right to freedom of religion around the world.” The Southern Baptist senator told the TEXAN, “I've worked with Tony and I have seen firsthand his deep commitment to ensure protection of the free exercise of religion for all people. He will be a great advocate for people to live out whatever faith they choose and I look forward to working with him in this role.”

Ronnie Floyd, former SBC Convention president, tweeted a congratulatory note to Perkins calling his appointment “outstanding.”

Just weeks before his appointment, USCIRF issued its 2018 report summarizing the religious freedom conditions in 28 nations – 16 earned the USCIRF most severe ranking as “countries of particular concern.” CPCs are governments that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom according to the USCIRF report.

“Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “Yet there is also reason for optimism 20 years after the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act. The importance of this foundational right is appreciated more now than ever, and egregious violations are less likely to go unnoticed.”