Robert Seiple, the American government's first ambassador for religious freedom, will leave his post in September.Seiple, former president of World Vision, was appointed by President Clinton in 1998 to promote religious freedom and reconciliation between parties in conflict along religious lines. Seiple will leave to set up a global think tank on religious freedom located at Eastern College on the outskirts of Philadelphia. It is unclear whether Seiple's replacement will be appointed by Clinton or next year by the new president.Starting in the late 1990s, Congress moved to establish religious human rights as an official U.S. foreign policy concern. In 1997 the Clinton administration appointed the U.S. State Dept Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. The following year, Congress created the ambassadorship, mandated an annual report on religious human rights, and appointed the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.Before 1997, human-rights organizations and the Washington bureaucracy had given little concern to religious persecution. But Seiple's presence, and the annual State Department reports mandated by Congress, have brought new legitimacy to concerns about religious human rights."I don't think we could have found a better man for the post," says Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Persistent Advocate

Seiple is known as a persistent but diplomatic advocate of religious human rights. Carol Hamrin, a recently retired State Department official, believes Seiple has established credibility for his office and religious human rights."He is not a rabble-rouser or a table-pounder that would just alienate all the State Department officers in the bureaus," Hamrin says. "But he also sticks ...

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