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Standish appointed new UN liaison for Adventist Church

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Standish appointed new UN liaison for Adventist Church

James D. Standish, Esq. testifies before a U.S. Congressional hearing on religious freedom in the workplace last year while serving as director of Legislative Affairs for the Adventist Church in North America. As the newly-appointed United Nations liaison for the church, Standish said he anticipates a similarly active role for the church at an international level. [ANN file photo]

Religious liberty expert hopes to secure church a 'seat at the table'

August 25, 2009 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN

A veteran Seventh-day Adventist religious freedom advocate will return to employment at church headquarters to serve as the worldwide denomination's liaison to the United Nations, the church's Executive Committee announced last week.

James D. Standish, Esq., formerly longtime director of Legislative Affairs for the Adventist Church, spent the past year as executive director of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent non-partisan federal agency advising the White House and Congress.

Working with the Commission gave him a broader understanding of the "inner workings" of government and what can be accomplished through cooperation and a candid exchange of ideas, Standish said.

"It's a real privilege to come back to work for the Adventist Church," he said. "I think that the church has so much to offer, from its understanding of religious freedom to its emphasis on education and health care and its thorough understanding of the gospel. Being part of that effort again from the inside is something that I really look forward to."

Standish, 45, is expected to begin his new post August 28, church officials said. He will work out of the church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL), with frequent trips to New York City to attend meetings at UN headquarters as the church's representative.

"We welcome the opportunity to have James back after his time at the Commission," said John Graz, PARL director. "James brings great experience, broad knowledge of religious liberty issues and credibility among religious freedom experts and government officials."

Standish is widely published, has discussed religious freedom concerns on nationally broadcast television and radio and has testified on religious freedom matters before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Executive Committee members approved Standish's appointment despite an ongoing hiring freeze at world church headquarters, explaining that filling "essential positions" is vital to the church's mission. Standish accepts a position that has been vacant for more than a year.

Ensuring that the church is an "integral part" of discussions on human rights and freedoms of religion at the UN is his primary objective, Standish said.

"We're aiming for a level of credibility and trust where we as a church have a seat at the table and the conversation doesn't go on until we're part of it," he said.

Making the effort to collaborate with "key players" at the UN and promote the church's views "systematically" will help make such a position "doable," Standish said. Working for the Commission for the past year, he added, reinforced the level of influence non-governmental organizations can have on decision-making. "I come back with a greater respect for the sort of impact that entities like the Adventist Church can have," he said.

Standish earned his undergraduate degree from Adventist-owned Newbold College in England, an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from Georgetown University. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar and the District of Columbia Bar and has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit.

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