Date: June 16, 2020
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today elected Gayle Manchin as its Chair to lead the Commission for 2020-2021. USCIRF Commissioners also elected its two Vice Chairs: Tony Perkins and Anurima Bhargava. In a show of continued bipartisan collegiality and support for the new Chair, the Commissioners opted to hold the election openly, rather than following the Commission’s usual procedure of voting anonymously by closed ballot.
“I am truly honored to be elected Chair of the Commission by my esteemed colleagues” Chair Manchin stated. “Together with my fellow Commissioners, we share a steadfast commitment to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief, and to bring about positive change for religious freedom conditions for all.”
Chair Manchin was first appointed to the Commission in 2018 by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), and was reappointed by Senator Schumer in May 2020. In her capacity as Vice Chair of USCIRF over the past year, she has participated in many USCIRF-sponsored hearings, meetings, and delegations, including travels to Indonesia, Bahrain, Turkey, Singapore, and Azerbaijan.
Chair Manchin is an esteemed educator who has served the community through a diverse breadth of roles. Currently, she is the Chair of the Board for Reconnecting McDowell, an American Federation of Teachers initiative serving rural West Virginia. Previously, Chair Manchin was on the faculty of Fairmont State University in Developmental Education, and was the Director of the university's first Community Service Learning Program. She was a member of the West Virginia State Board of Education, where she also served as President, in addition to the Cabinet Secretary for the Office of Education and the Arts. Chair Manchin has spoken at the state and national levels on the challenges of rural education, poverty, and student achievement.
Vice Chair Perkins was reappointed to the Commission by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in May 2020. Vice Chair Bhargava was reappointed to the Commission by House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in May 2020.
Chair Manchin added, “I look forward to working more closely with Vice Chairs Perkins and Bhargava in the coming year as we face many challenges ahead and address the threats to religious freedom around the world. Together, the bipartisan Commission will work collectively to provide policy recommendations to the White House, the Secretary of State, and Congress on addressing the global challenges to freedom of religion or belief.”
Also serving on the Commission are: Gary L. Bauer, James W. Carr, Nadine Maenza, Johnnie Moore, and Nury Turkel. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback serves ex officio on the Commission.
Read the full Commissioner biographies here.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at