Campaign adviser and ethicist Shaun Casey has been given a new position to lead the State Department’s new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.
Casey served as advisor during President Obama’s campaign, helped other Democrats to reach religious voters and is a professor of Christian ethics at the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
The Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, that Casey will head, has been set up partially to quell rumors and criticism that the U.S. is pushing religious groups aside in its foreign policy.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that Casey would understand how to talk with religious communities around the world so that the U.S. can help them achieve peace. Kerry added that to ignore the global impact of religion was a foolish move in a world where people of different faiths live together.
Casey said that he agreed with Kerry’s views that the religions of the world are not poisoning everything, but he also added that religion could not save the world or solve all its problems.
Casey went on to say that he hopes to “build strong relationships with religious actors abroad to collaborate on a variety of fronts, from conflict prevention and mitigation, to promoting human rights, to fostering development.” He will take temporary leave from his position at Wesley Theological Seminary in order to transition to his new role in the State Department.
Some religious advocates have asked that the U.S. government take a more active role in defending the rights of religious minorities worldwide. Some are hoping that the Casey appointment will fill this void. Retired Ambassador and head of the First Freedom Center based in Virginia, Randolph Bell, wants to wait and see what Casey will do before he makes any decisions.
Bell went on to say that he was willing to give Casey and the new State Department the benefit of the doubt and see whether they could do anything to help religious freedom abroad.
However, Knox Thames, the director of policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, was more hopeful. He said that the State Department’s willingness to create this new office was a positive step towards helping to promote religious freedom worldwide.
Thames went on to say that he hoped that this department and Casey could convey to the rest of the world the values that the U.S. holds dear and the importance of religious freedom for all.