Obama’s religious freedom ambassador nominee compares herself to Margaret Thatcher
President Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador of religious freedom compared herself recently at a Religious Liberty Dinner to Margaret Thatcher, even as she dwelled on faith issues overseas.
Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, twice nominated by Obama for the post of ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, told some 200 lawmakers, ambassadors and church leaders at the ninth annual religious dinner that she is not fazed at having to be re-nominated, Religion News Service said.
Instead, she compared herself to the former British prime minister saying, “They called Margaret Thatcher the Iron Lady. Change the name. It’s mine now,” according to RNS.
Last June Obama nominated Cook, RNS said, but the nomination was delayed by the Senate amid criticisms that she lacked enough qualifications for the job. The nomination expired last December.
Cook was re-nominated in February after critics faulted Obama for not giving due attention to the issue of religious freedom, RNS said. She is awaiting senate approval of her appointment.
On March 7 a letter was sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticizing U.S. inaction in assigning an international religious freedom ambassador, Media Newswire said.
The letter was signed by 34 scholars, religious leaders, international relations and human rights experts, Media Newswire said. It stated that the Middle East unrest makes action imperative, and failure to appoint a religious ambassador at this time sends the message to extremists in oppressive governments and struggling democracies that religious freedom is a low priority in the U.S.
The letter also lamented the low turnout at Cook’s first confirmation hearing last year, Media Newswire said. It called on Senators to be serious in attending the next hearing “to let the nominee and the administration know that IRF should be a high priority for the United States.”
The signatories did not endorse Cook, but did lament the poor attention that is being paid to the issue of religious freedom as shown by failure to produce an ambassador-at-large up until now, Media Newswire reported.
Of the delay in her appointment Cook said in her address, “This will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest nomination. But we thank God to just be in the number,” RNS reported.
Under the administration of President Bill Clinton, Cook served as an advisor of domestic policy. She also pastored two New York City churches, one of which she founded in 1996. She retired in 2009, RNS said.
At the dinner, which was sponsored by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Cook mentioned the recent “despicable act” of burning a Quran by a Florida cult triggering violent demonstrations in Afghanistan, RNS said.
Cook also criticized some governments that claim to allow religious freedom in their countries, but do not enforce it. She said, “Laws are too often broken by their own governments, and their people suffer,” RNS reported.
Citing the rash of unrest in the Middle East, Cook said these have produced “challenges and opportunities” that require strategic
action for the wellbeing of minority Christians, The Christian Post said.
Cook told the participants, “The frontline demands strategic action, not emotional or reactionary tactics, but strategic, prayerful action. Either we deal with it now or fundamentalist extremists can fill the power vacuums where regions have lacked democratic institutions,” RNS reported.
Cook also paid tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti, the first and only Christian in Pakistan’s government, who was assassinated for fighting for the amendment of that country’s loathsome blasphemy law.
Noting that Bhatti was never swayed by threats and danger in his advocacy for religious freedom for minorities in his country, Cook said, “As Americans, without any apologies whatsoever, we must repeat the message [religious freedom] over and over and over again to the world … [and] hold up international documents that establish this right,” The Christian Post reported.