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President Obama appoints James Zogby to commission on religious freedom

By WKTV News

UTICA, NY (WKTV) - A Utica native has been appointed to what could be a pretty influential position in Washington, D.C. James Zogby is one of eight members appointed to the Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"Our job is to advise the president and Congress on matters of religious freedom around the world, and to be a sort of prod when they're not paying attention to make them pay attention," Zogby said.

If you ask him how he's prepared for this position, it would almost seem like he was made for it.

" This is what i have literally prepared my life for: my Ph.D. is in religion, I've chaired the ethnic council in the democratic party, I know all the ethnic communities and their concerns, I know the Armenians, the Turks and the Greeks, and I know all the differences there," he said.

Zogby stopped doing the show, "Viewpoint," a year ago. It's something he worked on for the better part of the past two decades.

He also does polling, like his brother John Zogby, also a Utica native. But James does his polling overseas.

"Governments want to know how their people are feeling about job opportunities, or how the government is doing on transportation matters, or quality of life..."

He did a poll in Egypt right before the demonstrations in June of 2013 broke out.

"The poll was released in Egypt and played for days and days, and it got me uncomfortable when people were saying it was that poll, the Zogby poll, that actually did it."

Speaking on Syria, Zogby says, " I'd say that there are no good guys right now in that fight. It began as a democratic protest movement. It evolved quickly into a violent conflict and now it's become a proxy war, but in the middle of all that, some really bad guys have emerged, more than i think the U.S. Government is acknowledging."

He says the most vulnerable communities are the Christians.

" We saw what happened in Iraq," Zogby said. "The Christian community in Iraq is for all intensive purposes destroyed. It was one of the oldest in the region. After that, the Syrian and Egyptian communities are equally as old."

That being said, democracy isn't always an easy path.

"There were 15,000 people with torches marching from Potato Hill down to Utica in an anti-mason rally," Zogby said, referring to our own growing pains in the U.S.

" It was kind of like tea party after tea party after tea party, that was our history and Egypt is going through the same thing."

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