Obama’s international religious freedom nominee under-qualified, critics say
Some international religious freedom advocates are doubtful of the credentials of President Obama’s nominee of ambassador for international religious freedom, the Associated Baptist Press said.
Obama nominated Suzan Johnson Cook, President and CEO of Wisdom Worldwide Center and a widely known motivational speaker.
Cook was a former presidential adviser and White House fellow on the Domestic Policy Council, according to her website.
However questions are being raised regarding her experience in foreign policy. Cook is widely distinguished as a motivational speaker and has, according to her website, delivered some 1,500 speeches in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States, her website says.
While her background as a pastor is undisputable, the field of foreign policy is complex and a firm grounding in the area is called for as ambassador for international religious freedom, the ABP said.
Robert Seiple, who first held the post in 1998, described the job as “delicate…even for experts,” the ABP said.
Religion Dispatches magazine said the nomination showed Obama’s “…proclivity for flash rather than substance in religious matters.”
In a statement Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said “Dr. Johnson Cook is an experienced religious leader with a passion for human rights and an impressive record of public service. President Obama could not have found a more fitting choice for this important position,” the ABP said.
According to her website, Cook’s other experience includes working as a producer at NBC, ABC and CBS. She has appeared in Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN’s Faith Forum and Fox among others, as a political and faith analyst. She is a bestselling author and faith advisor to political and celebrity leaders.
Obama also named two appointees to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, namely Felice Gaer, currently with the commission, to be given another term, and William Shaw, former president of the National Baptist Convention, CNN said.
The appointments come weeks after the USCIRF expressed concern in their annual report that the position has not been filled. They feared that under Obama’s watch the position, which Congress had intended to serve as a principal adviser to the President and Secretary of State, could be reduced in the ranking of the State Department, CNN said.