NASHVILLE (ABP) — A Southern Baptist official and a Roman Catholic bishop signed a joint letter March 4 asking two U.S. senators to allow a vote on a bill that would create and fund a new envoy to promote religious liberty of minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace, asked Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) to lift a hold they placed on legislation introduced in March 2013 by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and 22 co-sponsors. Coburn, a Southern Baptist, and Lee, a Mormon, voiced concerns about spending money to support a new, region-specific envoy when the State Department already has a position for a religious-freedom diplomat that remains unfilled. Suzan Johnson Cook, an ordained American Baptist minister, resigned as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom after 30 months on the job in fall 2013.
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