June 11, 2014 — President Barack Obama has named Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese as the newest member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which serves as an advisory panel to the federal government on protecting religious freedom abroad.
Fr. Reese joins three fellow Catholics on the commission: chairman Robert P. George, a bioethicist and Princeton University professor; James Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute; and Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University law professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Former commission members include Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Bishop William Murphy and Most Reverend Ricardo Ramírez.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental human right of every person on earth,” Fr. Reese wrote in his latest column, “Faith and Justice,” for the National Catholic Reporter. “It is easy to forget about religious freedom when policymakers are so focused on national security, economic issues and other human rights that religious freedom is forgotten,” he wrote.
Fr. Reese, who will serve a two-year term on the commission, is currently a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. Previously, he served as a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., from 2006 to 2013 and from 1988 to 1998, after first joining 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. Fr. Reese entered the Society of Jesus in 1962 and was ordained in 1974. He received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Saint Louis University, a Master of Divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.
“I am grateful that these talented and dedicated individuals have agreed to take on these important roles and devote their talents to serving the American people. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years,” Obama said in a statement. [Sources: National Catholic Reporter, Catholic Sentinel, The White House]