Stahnke Tapped to Receive National First Freedom Award

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke has been tapped to receive a the National First Freedom Award from The First Freedom Center. Stahnke, Director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First, is one of four recipients who the organization will recognize for their contributions to the advancement of religious liberty.

“It is an honor to receive this award from The First Freedoms Center,” said Stahnke. “One of the great things about the United States is that there is the promise of full citizenship and equal rights regardless of your religion. We all have to work hard to keep that promise,  which is unfortunately denied to hundreds of millions of people around the world. This award highlights the work of those who have dedicated their careers to changing that and I am humbled to be in the company of my fellow recipients.”

The First Freedom Center has presented its National First Freedom Award since 1996. Among the recipients are The Honorable Richard C. Holbrook, Chief Negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, The Honorable George J. Mitchell, former U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Northern Ireland peace negotiations, and Congressman Frank Wolf, who authored the International Religious Freedom Act.

Stahnke joined Human Rights First in January 2008 as Director of the Fighting Discrimination program, which combats anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, and other forms of bias-motivated violence worldwide.  He led the organization’s successful campaign to reverse efforts by countries at the United Nations to enact a global blasphemy code, which culminated in a groundbreaking resolution to oppose hatred without restricting freedom of expression.  He also instituted “Faith Shared” with the Interfaith Alliance, whereby dozens of churches across the country invited Imams and Rabbis to share from their sacred texts in order to demonstrate the commitment of Americans to respect religious differences.

Earlier in his career, he was a founding staff member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where he served as Deputy Executive Director for Policy from 2000 to 2007 and as Acting Executive Director in 2002 and 2007. At USCIRF, Stahnke guided the newly-established commission’s efforts to advance freedom of religion and belief as a U.S. foreign policy priority in China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Sudan, Russia and many other countries.  He joined fact-finding missions to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and was a member of U.S. delegations to human-rights conferences hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations.  As a recognized expert on international human rights law, he has trained officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security on issues of religious freedom and religious persecution.

Stahnke is the author, co-author, or editor of numerous scholarly works on religious freedom, including (with J. Paul Martin, ed.) Religion and Human Rights: Basic Documents and “The Right to Engage in Religious Persuasion” in Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Deskbook.

The First Freedom Center will present its First Freedoms Awards during its annual gala held on January 16, 2013, at the Downtown Richmond Marriott. This year marks the 19th year that the First Freedom Center has hosted the First Freedom Awards in conjunction with National Religious Freedom Day. Other recipients who will be honored this year include Chinese activist Ribiya Kadeer, recipient of the International First Freedom Award; Department of Justice Special Counsel for Discrimination Eric Treen, recipient of the Virginia First Freedom Award; and President of The College of William and Mary Taylor Reveley, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award.

In its announcement of the awards, First Freedom Center President Ambassador (ret.) Randolph Bell noted, “The First Freedom Center is proud to recognize profound contributors to the advancement of religious liberty. In honoring these champions of religious freedom, we shine light on one of the most pressing issues facing humankind today.  The ongoing quest to ensure that all societies of the world respect religious freedom as a fundamental human right is at the core of our shared aspirations for stability, peace, and the protection of human dignity.”


Published on January 8, 2013


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