Rabbi David Saperstein has ‘passion for religious liberty’ says leader of Baptist Joint Committee

July 28, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Cherilyn Crowe / ccrowe@BJConline.org / 202-544-4226 / cell: 202-603-1663

WASHINGTON – The White House announced today that Rabbi David Saperstein will be nominated as the next Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, putting the U.S. commitment to international religious liberty in “good hands,” according to the leader of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director Brent Walker enthusiastically applauded the selection. “Rabbi Saperstein brings theological training and legal expertise, valuable experience serving on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and a passion for religious liberty both in the United States and around the world,” Walker said. “The United States’ commitment to the cause of international religious liberty will be in good hands under Rabbi Saperstein’s tutelage.

“The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Baptist Joint Committee have worked in partnership for decades in the fight for religious freedom. Rabbi Saperstein and I served as co-chairs of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, and, in 2006, Rabbi Saperstein was the inaugural lecturer for the Baptist Joint Committee’s annual Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State,” Walker noted.

“Rabbi Saperstein and I co-taught a seminar on church-state relations at the Georgetown University Law Center for a decade and have enjoyed a close friendship for nearly 25 years,” Walker said. “He has all the professional and personal attributes to serve with excellence in this new capacity.”

The ambassador-at-large position was created by Congress with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which also created the Office of International Religious Freedom. The ambassador-at-large heads that office, which promotes religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy.

The position has been vacant since the resignation of the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, a Baptist minister, in October 2013. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Saperstein would be the fourth person to hold the position and the first non-Christian.

Saperstein currently serves as the director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism – a position he has held since 1974. He also teaches First Amendment church-state law and Jewish Law as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. He served as the first chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2000 and continued to serve as a member until 2001. Saperstein was also a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2010 to 2011.

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The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is a 78-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.