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President Obama Announces Appointments to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom


May 20, 2014 | USCIRF

WASHINGTON, DC – President Barack Obama on May 14, 2014 announced his intent to appoint Father Thomas J. Reese and reappoint Eric P. Schwartz to serve on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

“USCIRF welcomes the appointment of Father Reese and the reappointment of Eric Schwartz,” said USCIRF Chairman Dr. Robert P. George. “Father Reese is an articulate advocate of humanitarian causes who will bring his compassion and wisdom to the cause of religious freedom. I also welcome the reappointment of Eric Schwartz who will continue to be a great asset to our Commission given his extraordinary depth of knowledge, experience, and commitment.  These Commissioners will be crucial to USCIRF’s work to help advance the cherished right of freedom of religion or belief around the world.”

“My fellow Commissioners and I also want to honor outgoing Commissioner Rev. William J. Shaw for his outstanding service to the Commission, his commitment to religious freedom, and his dedication to the voiceless,” said Chairman George.

Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J. is a Senior Analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, a position he has held since 2014.  Previously, he was a Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center from 2006 to 2013 and from 1988 to 1998.  He joined the Center as a Visiting Fellow in 1985.  He was Editor-in-Chief of America magazine from 1998 to 2005 and an associate editor from 1978 to 1985.  As an associate editor, he covered politics, economics, and the Catholic Church.  Rev. Reese entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained in 1974.  He received a B.A. and an M.A. from St. Louis University, an M.Div. from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Eric P. Schwartz is Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, a position he has held since 2011.  From 2009 to 2011, he was Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration at the Department of State.  Mr. Schwartz served as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery from 2005 to 2007, and as Chief of Office in Geneva for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2003 to 2004.  From 1993 until 2001, he was on the staff of the National Security Council, and from 1986 to 1989, he served as Washington Director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.  Mr. Schwartz was first appointed to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2013.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of Refugees International, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.  Mr. Schwartz received a B.A. from Binghamton University, an M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Composed of nine members who are part-time volunteers, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and House of Representatives. 

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at 202-786-0613 or media@uscirf.gov.