John Van Hanford III (born c. 1954) was United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2002 to 2009. As ambassador, Hanford led the Office of International Religious Freedom at the United States Department of State.
The Office of International Religious Freedom and position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom were created under the provisions of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Hanford was the second ambassador. He was appointed to the post in May 2002 by President George W. Bush and served until 2009.
Early life and education
He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a John Motley Morehead Scholarship and earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics. He graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity.
Hanford served in pastoral ministry on the staff of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, Virginia before working for 14 years as a Congressional Fellow on the staff of Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, a Republican. Hanford was foreign affairs aide focusing on international religious freedom who worked to pass the International Religious Freedom Act.
President George W. Bush announced that he intended to nominate Hanford as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom on September 26, 2001. The nomination was sent to the Senate on November 6, 2001, and Hanford was confirmed on January 25, 2002.
Hanford served from May 2, 2002 to January 2, 2009. During Hanford's term, Uzbekistan was designated a Country of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act for "particularly severe violations of religious freedom." Hanford said that Uzbekistan had added "outrageous" amendments to the state law governing religion: Hanford said, "The most serious problem over the last few years in Uzbekistan has been the inappropriate arrest of some Muslims who are simply observant, maybe praying five times a day. Perhaps they have a beard, and just on the basis of these outward signs, they are suspected of having terrorist ties. And in some cases, these people have been horribly treated."
- Wertheimer, Molly Meijer, and Nichola D. Gutgold. Elizabeth Hanford Dole: speaking from the heart. Greenwood: 2004, p. 52.
- Presidential Nomination: John Van Hanford. whitehouse.gov.
- "Uzbekistan." International Religious Freedom Report 2007. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State.
- "US Religion Report Targets Uzbekistan, Iran, China." Voice of America.
- Biography from the Department of State