Catholic thinker to head US religious freedom commission

Robert George speaking at the Catholic Information Center on Feb 23 2012 Credit Michelle Bauman CNA CNA US Catholic News 1 9 13 Robert George speaking at the Catholic Information Center on Feb. 23 2012. | Michelle Bauman-CNA.

Princeton law professor Robert P. George has been elected as chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, giving the prominent Catholic thinker a leading role in policy recommendations for the US government.

George said July 23 that religious freedom is the "most fundamental of human rights."

"I am deeply honored that my colleagues have entrusted me with this position of leadership. I have big shoes to fill," he said, praising his predecessor, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, for promoting religious liberty.

"It will be my constant endeavor to live up to her outstanding example as USCIRF works to ensure that the cause of religious freedom, understood in its most robust sense, is given the high priority it deserves in the formation and execution of U.S. foreign policy," George continued. "While much has been accomplished, much remains to be done."

The commission monitors the state of freedom of religion, thought, conscience or belief as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The commission gives independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton. He is an expert in the natural law legal and moral philosophy. He is the author of several books, including one defending the life of the human embryo.

Speaker of the House John Boehner appointed George to the religious freedom commission in 2012.

Dr. Lantos Swett, the outgoing chair of the commission, said she was "honored" to have worked with George in "the struggle to guarantee religious freedom abroad for people of every faith and shade of belief."

"He is a true human rights champion whose compassion for victims of oppression and wisdom about international religious freedom shine through all we have accomplished this past year," she said.

Lantos Swett said the bipartisan commission is "united in its admiration" for George's skills as a religious freedom advocate.

George has served on the President's Council on Bioethics and on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He was a judicial fellow at the U.S. Supreme Court and served on UNESCO's Word Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

George co-wrote the Manhattan Declaration, a 2009 document that advocated the defense of religious liberty, traditional marriage, and the sanctity of human life in the United States. Over 500,000 people, including several hundred important Christian religious leaders, signed the document.

He is a present or former board member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the Family Research Council. He has also held editorial board positions for publications including Touchstone, First Things and Public Discourse.

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