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Frist returns Land to international religious liberty panel

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist church-state specialist Richard Land is returning to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, this time as a senatorial appointee.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee has named Land to the nine-member panel, the USCIRF announced July 26. Previously, President Bush had appointed Land to the commission for two terms totaling three years. Land completed his second term in September 2004. Land’s new appointment to the panel is effective immediately.

After being off the USCIRF for a year, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission returns to the panel to replace Michael Young, who had served on the commission since it began in 1999.

The USCIRF, which is a nonpartisan panel appointed by the president and members of Congress, researches the status of religious liberty in other countries and provides reports and recommendations to the White House and legislators.

Michael Cromartie, the commission’s chairman, commended Frist’s selection of Land.

“The experience, knowledge and perspective [Land] brings will greatly enhance the work of our commission,” Cromartie said in a written release. “He has been an important asset to the USCIRF in the past, and we enthusiastically welcome his return.”

Land said he was “both humbled and honored” at the appointment by Frist.

“There is no work our government is doing that is more important and of which Americans should be more proud than the work we are doing through the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to stand up for the universal right of the individual’s freedom of conscience in matters of faith,” Land said. “Too many countries in the world would be paying little, if any, attention to freedom of conscience in matters of the faith of minorities within their borders if it were not for the insistence of the government of the United States. It is terribly important work, and I am honored to be part of it.”

Bush first appointed Land to the commission for two years in September 2001. The president reappointed Land to a one-year term in 2003.

Cromartie, vice president of the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, thanked Young for “his tireless dedication” to the commission. Young had served previously as the USCIRF chairman. The former dean at George Washington University Law School, Young has been president of the University of Utah for nearly a year.