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Obama nominates rabbi to serve as State's religious freedom ambassador

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Rabbi David Saperstein, left, claps as President Barack Obama approaches to sign an executive order to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination in the East Room of the White House Monday, July 21, 2014, in Washington. Obama's executive order signed Monday prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

President Barack Obama on Monday announced the nomination of Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein to be the ambassador at large for international religious freedom at the State Department, a position that has been vacant since late last year.

"I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has chosen to dedicate his talent to serving the American people at this important time for our country," Obama said. "I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead."

Rabbi David Saperstein, left, claps as President Barack Obama approaches to sign legislation in the White House. Saperstein was nominated by Obama on Monday to serve as State's ambassador at large for religious freedom. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Saperstein is director and counsel at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and teaches First Amendment church-state law and Jewish law at Georgetown University.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who has warned about violence against Christians taking place in Iraq, welcomed Saperstein's nomination and called on the Senate to quickly confirm him.

"Rabbi Saperstein is well-respected on these matters, and has been engaged on this issue for a long time," Wolf said on the House floor.

"I welcome this nomination. It is a good nomination, and I ask the Senate to confirm Rabbi Saperstein quickly."

Wolf said the U.S. needs to do more to protect Christians in Iraq from violence, persecution and what he said amounts to genocide in that country.

"The churches have been seized, and some turned into mosques," Wolf said. "Every trace of Christianity is being eradicated in Iraq."

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