At least three people are being considered by President Donald Trump to fill the role of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a position that could gain more prominence as the new administration aims to prioritize aid for persecuted religious minorities.
As over 700 religious freedom advocates have called on Trump to nominate someone to fulfill the Congressionally mandated position that went unfulfilled in the first 845 days of the Obama presidency, Foreign Policy reports that unnamed officials have disclosed the names of three prominent religious freedom advocates who are said to be in consideration for the job.
According to an unnamed individual familiar with the appointment process who spoke with Foreign Policy, the frontrunner for the position is said to be Ken Starr, a former federal judge, U.S. solicitor general and the man who prosecuted former President Bill Clinton on allegations that he lied during a sworn deposition about his extramarital affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.
"It's my understanding that it's his job if he wants it," an individual familiar with the process told FP.
Starr, the 70-year-old former president and chancellor of Baylor University in Texas, a Southern Baptist school, has also been in the headlines for some unpleasant reasons. Baylor's football program became wrapped in a major national media firestorm after allegations came out last year that Starr and other Baylor officials ignored allegations that women were raped by the team players.
When asked about a particular email that a woman claiming to have been raped sent Starr, Starr admitted in an interview that "I'm not denying that I saw it."
The scandal ultimately cost head coach Art Briles' his job and Starr was demoted from his position as the university president. Starr officially resigned from his role as chancellor last June and resigned from his role as tenured law professor in August.
But what many might not know about Starr is that he is a devout advocate for religious liberties and used his role as Baylor chancellor to speak out about how religious freedom is fundamental to a free society.
Starr has written a number of pieces published by wide-read news outlets detailing the importance of religious liberty at home and abroad and warns against American's "receding understanding of why religious liberty is necessary for human and social flourishing."
Since breaking ties with Baylor, Starr told The Baylor Lariat that he has been able to focus on his "abiding passions" of "education and religious liberty."
"I'm working very hard around the globe on issues of religious liberty for all persons. That was a high priority when I was privileged to serve at Baylor University," Starr said. "I remain in close touch with our friends and colleagues at Georgetown University. I am a member of the board of directors of Advocates International, which is a worldwide network of lawyers in over 120 countries who work to promote and defend religious liberty around the world."
During his time at Baylor, Starr was instrumental in leading Baylor's participation in Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project, which lasted from 2011 until 2016 and was the only university-based program devoted to discussing religious freedom issues facing the world. The program gave rise to offshoots such as the Religious Freedom Research Project and the Religious Freedom Institute.
Johnnie Moore, an evangelical figure with a good reputation across partisan and religious lines, is also said to be in the running for the position.
Moore is a former vice president at Liberty University and the founder of the elite public relations firm, The Kairos Company, which serves well-known clients that span the entertainment, faith and political sectors.
Moore, 33, is a respected figure in the international religious freedom arena for his humanitarian work and political advocacy. He is the author of the popular 2014 book Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and in Your Own Backyard.
Moore issued early warnings about the threat that a little-known terrorist group, the Islamic State, posed to ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria when he visited Capitol Hill in early 2014 to warn lawmakers.
After IS had conquered large swaths of territory and thousands of Christians and religious minorities had been forced to flee from their homes, Moore visited the Kurdish region of Iraq in October 2014 to witness the plight of the persecuted communities, and to verify the claims that girls were being sold as sex slaves and that ancient religious artifacts had been destroyed.
Moore, along with groups like In Defense of Christians and the Knights of Columbus, also played a role in advocating for both houses of Congress and the British Parliament to pass resolutions declaring IS' acts against Christians a "genocide."
As Moore's advocacy spanned from the U.S., United Kingdom, European Union and the Middle East, his advocacy efforts have been credited with helping raise over $20 million in emergency assistance.
Moore has also been involved in a number of organizations that have helped persecuted religious minorities. Moore co-founded The Nazarene Fund, which has helped provide at least 2,600 displaced individuals with dignified living conditions and has rescued over 4,000 from genocidal conditions in the Middle East.
Moore co-founded The Cradle Fund, which has provided millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, and has helped other humanitarian aid organizations like World Help and Preemptive Love Coalition.
Moore serves on the board of a number of prominent organizations like National Association of Evangelicals, World Evangelical Alliance, My Faith Votes and Dream Center.
Moore's advocacy efforts in the Middle East has led Canon Andrew White, The Vicar of Baghdad, to call him "one of America's foremost spokespersons for international religious freedom."
Moore also serves as a member of President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory board and is a senior editorial advisor with The Christian Post.
Nina Shea, a former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in which she served from June 1999 until March 2012, is also said to be in consideration for the position.
Shea is an international human rights lawyer and the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the D.C.-based public policy think tank Hudson Institute with a distinguished 30-year career in advocating for human rights.
She has also been appointed as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations' main human rights body by Democratic and Republican administrations and was a member of the Clinton administration's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad.
In January of 2009, she was appointed as a member of the U.S. National Commission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Shea has also been credited with playing a leading role in building support for the passing of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Shea's advocacy has focused on human rights conflicts across the globe.
According to the her bio on the Hudson Institute website, there was a period of seven years in the late 1990s and early 2000s where she helped lead a coalition of churches and religious organizations that worked to end a war against non-Muslims in southern Sudan.
In 2014, Shea lead a coalition of hundreds of religious leaders to issue "The Pledge of Solidarity for Persecuted Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian Christians and Other Minorities." The pledge was released by a Congressional panel in May of that year.
Shea even met with Pope Francis in 2014 to discuss the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
Shea, along with Moore, was another prominent advocate encouraging the U.S. to label IS' treatment of Christians as "genocide."
In her work with the Hudson Institute, Shea organized events for persecuted believers from across the globe. Prior to joining Hudson Institute, Shea worked with the watchdog organization Freedom House for over 10 years. At Freedom House, Shea directed its Center for Religious Freedom.
Shea's efforts have helped many across the religious spectrum and she even received an award from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA when she was given the inaugural "Ahmadiyya Muslim Humanitarian Award" in 2011.
Shea has also voiced her disapproval of the United States' inability to help persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria, even though Sec. of State John Kerry declared the situation a "genocide" last March. In October, Shea penned an op-ed titled "The U.S. and U.N. Have Abandoned Christian Refugees."
One of the main criticisms of the U.S. government humanitarian policy is the fact that it is too reliant on the United Nations to disburse aid and refer for resettlement. Although the United Nations is helping provide aid to displaced families, Christians and other religious minorities tend to stay away from U.N. camps because of fear of being persecuted by extremist groups entrenched in those camps. Therefore, no money or aid is making its way to displaced Christian communities unless it comes from the donations of Christian groups and churches.
"Genocide is the most heinous human-rights violation," she wrote. "For America to entrust the survival of communities on the brink of extinction to a U.N. operation that routinely fails them is the height of cynicism."
Shea has also written a number of op-eds advocating for persecuted Christians that have been published in the National Review, CP and other news outlets.
Although Starr appears to be the frontrunner for the position, some speculate that Shea might be a good fit for the new National Security Council position of Special Adviser to the President on International Religious Freedom that was created under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act passed last December.