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PFAW picks civil rights veteran to replace Shields as president

WASHINGTON (BP)–People for the American Way, which describes itself as the “leading watchdog” of the religious right, has named a veteran civil rights leader as its new president.
Ralph Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights for 14 years, will take over the position in January. He replaces Carole Shields, who has served as president since 1996.
Shields, the daughter of a former Southern Baptist Convention leader, will return to her previous role as co-chairman with organization founder Norman Lear of the PFAW Foundation. She was drafted from that position by the board to become president more than three years ago.
Shields is the daughter of Grady Cothen, who served as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Baptist Sunday School Board.
In addition to directing several successful campaigns for civil rights legislation, Neas coordinated the drafting of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, according to a PFAW news release. If enacted, ENDA would establish homosexuality, under the title of “sexual orientation,” as a classification deserving protection in the same way race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion and disability now have protected status in the workplace.
He also led LCCR’s successful effort to defeat the 1987 nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to PFAW.
Neas ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat from Maryland in 1998.
Lear started PFAW nearly 20 years ago as a response to the renewed involvement of religious conservatives in politics and government. The organization has been a leading critic of the religious right while often espousing liberal positions.