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KNOX THAMES

Knox Thames is an international human rights lawyer, advocate, and author who has dedicated his career to promoting human rights, defending religious minorities, and combatting persecution.

Over his 20 years of service in the U.S. government, Knox held several key positions advocating for freedom of religion or belief, including at the State Department and two different U.S. government foreign policy commissions. Knox has deep experience regarding South/Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and U.S. foreign policy relating to human rights. Serving in the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, he has worked at the intersection of global affairs, religion, and human rights.

Known for his nonpartisan approach to advocacy, both the Obama and Trump administrations appointed Knox as the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South / Central Asia at the State Department. The first to serve in this special envoy role, he received a civil service appointment to lead State Department efforts to support religious minorities in these regions.

In April 2023, Knox joined Pepperdine University as a Senior Fellow, directing the new Program on Global Faith and Inclusive Societies from the Washington DC campus. In addition, since 2020, he has worked as a non-resident Senior Visiting Expert at the United States Institute of Peace. Both positions are possible thanks to the Templeton Religion Trust. 

Knox has been a vocal advocate for human rights and the persecuted throughout his career. A recognized expert, Knox was a finalist to serve as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. He has spoken before the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Organization of American States, the OSCE, the Atlantic Council, Wilton Park, the Foreign Service Institute, and U.S. military war colleges.


Knox has written widely, including for USA Today, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, TIME, CNN, Newsweek, RealClearPolitics, the Times of London, the Harvard Human Rights Journal, the Yale Journal of International Affairs, the Small Wars Journal, and others. And he literally wrote the book on religious freedom advocacy, being the initiator and lead author of International Religious Freedom Advocacy: A Guide to Organizations, Law and NGOs, published by Baylor University Press. In addition, his new book, Ending Persecution: Charting the Path to Global Religious Freedomwill be released in September 2024 by Notre Dame Press.

​During his 20-year government career, Knox served at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), AmeriCorps VISTA, and the U.S. Army War College as an Adjunct Research Professor. In addition, from 2004-2012, he was a State Department appointee to the OSCE Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief. He is a current member of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preventing the destruction, damage and theft of cultural property during armed conflict and natural disasters.

He received a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown College, a Juris Doctorate (cum laude) from American University's Washington College of Law, and a Master's in International Affairs from the School of International Service at American University. In addition, he studied at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

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