James Standish Returns to GC as UN Liaison
BY ELIZABETH LECHLEITNER, Adventist News Network
veteran Seventh-day Adventist religious freedom advocate has returned to General Conference to serve as the worldwide denomination’s liaison to the United Nations.
James D. Standish, Esq., formerly director of Legislative Affairs for the Adventist Church, spent the past year as executive director of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a 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, will work as an associate director of the General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department and will take 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 of Appeals.