John V. Hanford III
Ambassador, International Religious Freedom
Term of Appointment:
John V. Hanford III is the second person to serve as U. S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. President Bush nominated Mr. Hanford on November 6, 2001. After confirmation by the Senate, he took the oath of office on May 2, 2002. The Ambassador at Large is, by law, a principal advisor to the President and Secretary of State and serves as the United States’ chief diplomat on issues of religious freedom worldwide. He also heads the Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
Prior to his position at the State Department, Ambassador Hanford served for 14 years as an expert on international religious freedom issues, while working on the staff of Senator Richard Lugar. During this period, Ambassador Hanford mobilized numerous efforts involving U.S. Senators and Representatives, Presidents and Secretaries of State to address some of the world’s most severe problems of religious persecution.
In 1998, Ambassador Hanford served as the chief architect of a bipartisan Congressional effort to craft enhanced U.S. policy on international religious freedom. He led a team of Congressional offices in authoring the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) and worked with the bill’s lead sponsors in guiding the Act through the legislative process to a unanimous vote in both houses of Congress. IRFA is regarded by many as one of Congress’s most significant legislative achievements in the area of human rights.
Prior to his work in the Senate, Ambassador Hanford served in pastoral ministry on the staff of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, Virginia.
Ambassador Hanford holds a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he attended on a John Motley Morehead Scholarship. He is a native of Salisbury, North Carolina.
Released on January 8, 2009