WASHINGTON (CNS) — Stephen Schneck, a Catholic activist and retired professor, was appointed June 15 by President Joe Biden to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal watchdog group that monitors religious freedom violations.
In a tweet that day announcing his new role, Schneck said he was “honored by the appointment to engage in this critical work.”
He also told Catholic News Service in June 15 email that he was grateful to be appointed to this work and said that as a Catholic, his understanding of church teaching on “social justice, solidarity, the common good and peace building can only help in better understanding” ongoing challenges to religious freedom in today’s world.
“Let me stress that the work of the commission is nonpartisan,” he said, adding that its “‘clients’ are the persecuted religious believers of the world.”
Schneck said the commission’s job is to “plead the case of these persecuted to the president and Congress. And, at this moment, the situation for religious freedom is very much jeopardized in dozens of nations by war, ethnic strife and by a spreading political attitude that demonizes those who are deemed ‘different.'”
The commission was formed in 1998 to monitor religious freedom violations worldwide and make recommendations to the president, State Department and Congress, which it does in annual reports.
This year’s report, documenting religious freedom violations in several countries in 2021, highlighted 15 countries of particular concern: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam.
It also put another 12 countries on a watch list, urging the U.S. government to respond with sanctions and other tools to hold perpetrators accountable.
Schneck was described in the White House biography material as a “political philosopher by training.” He retired from The Catholic University of America in 2017, after more than 30 years as a professor, department chair and dean. He also was the founder and longtime director of the university’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.
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