Land again on religious freedom panel

WASHINGTON (BP)--Southern Baptist church-state specialist Richard Land has been chosen for a fifth term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky reappointed Land, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, to his latest term on the nine-member panel.

Since 2001, Land has served on the commission every year except one. President Bush appointed Land that year to a two-year term, followed by a one-year term. Land was off the commission for less than a year before being renamed to USCIRF for two years in 2005 by then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. McConnell appointed Land to a fourth term in 2007.

"I am honored and humbled that Minority Leader McConnell would appoint me to another term of service on the Untied States Commission on International Religious Freedom," Land said. "What the commission does is terribly important and makes a real difference for freedom of conscience and religious belief around the world for people of all religions."

USCIRF also announced Aug. 11 the reappointment of three other members and the selection of one new commissioner. Reappointed were Don Argue, Elizabeth Prodromou and Nina Shea. Ted Van Der Meid was named to his first term.

"In recent years, Dr. Prodromou, Dr. Land, Dr. Argue and Ms. Shea have each been extraordinarily valuable members of USCIRF, bringing years of research and insight to bear on the problem of international religious freedom," USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said in a written release. "And we welcome Mr. Van Der Meid, whose extensive Capitol Hill background and experience as counselor and advisor to key members of Congress [will help him] deal with this important aspect of U.S. policy and national security concerns."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reappointed Argue, chancellor of Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash., and a commissioner since 2007.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi renamed Prodromou, assistant professor of international relations at Boston University and a USCIRF member since 2004.

House Minority Leader John Boehner reappointed Shea, director of Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and a commissioner since USCIRF began in 1999.

Boehner also appointed Van Der Meid, a lawyer and former counsel to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

USCIRF, which is a nonpartisan panel appointed by the president and members of Congress, researches the status of religious liberty in other countries and provides reports and recommendations to the White House, State Department and legislators. The president selects three members of the commission, while congressional leaders name the other six. The State Department's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom serves as a non-voting member of the panel.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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