Biden unveils picks for key religious freedom roles

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Biden (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Biden (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

President Joe Biden on Friday announced his picks for four key religious freedom roles, including Khzir Khan, the Muslim-American father of a slain U.S. soldier who became an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump throughout both of his campaigns.

Khan was appointed to be a commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a body that investigates and monitors religious freedom issues across the globe and makes recommendations to the administration on how to address abuses. He rose to national prominence during the 2016 campaign with his sharp critiques of Trump’s policies and rhetoric towards Muslims ultimately speaking out against the Republican at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and sharing the story of his son, a U.S. Army captain who died in Iraq in 2004.

Biden is also appointing Sharon Kleinbaum, a rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City and a prominent activist for LGBTQ rights as a commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Biden’s nominations include Rashad Hussain, who would be the first Muslim American to serve as the U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. Hussain previously served in the Obama administration as White House counsel, as well as U.S. special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, among other roles.

In addition, he’s nominating Deborah Lipstadt to be the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-semitism, a role that has the rank of ambassador, a position that’s part of the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. The position was left unfilled during the first few years of the Trump presidency, but lawmakers from both parties and a number of leading Jewish organizations have urged Biden to fill the role to address a global rise in anti-semitism in recent years. Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, and served on the State Department’s advisory committee on religious persecution abroad.

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