ACU Alum Describes State Department Work in New Book, ‘Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom’


It’s a question Shaun Casey is often asked, and it happened again when he spoke for a gathering Feb. 16 at Abilene Christian University, his alma mater.

Exactly who is this devil, the questioner wanted to know. Casey had just spoken about his new book, “Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom: The Future of Religion in American Diplomacy.” Just as he has done many times before, Casey declined to answer specifically.

“It’s in the last chapter,” he said. “I’m not going to blow it.”

The last chapter of the book, Chapter 9, is titled, “The Devil?” Casey offered a hint–it’s not a particular person, but rather adversarial forces. Casey, a 1979 graduate of ACU, understands adversarial forces well. 

Shaun A. Casey

In 2013, Casey was teaching at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., when he got a call from John Kerry, Secretary of State under Barack Obama. He wanted Casey to head up the U.S. Department of State’s new Office of Religion and Global Affairs. The State Department is sometimes referred to as “Foggy Bottom” because of its location in the Washington neighborhood of the same name.

Casey explained that the mission of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs was to advise Kerry about the world’s religions and to train employees in the U.S. Consulates about how to engage with the locdal religious communities. He initially assembled a staff of 30 people for the office. The team created six regions worldwide, with a different religion represented in each. Kerry thought so highly of Casey’s work that he wrote the foreword for Casey’s book. 

After graduating from ACU, Casey earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School and a master of divinity and a doctor of theology from Harvard Divinity School. Despite all that education, Casey said the time spent running the Office of Religion and Global Affairs was the most educational. He traveled the world with Secretary of State Kerry, learning firsthand about the world’s religions. 

“I learned more in those four years than any other four years in my life,” he said. 

Shaun A. Casey, left, spoke about his new book at ACU, his alma mater, on Feb. 16. Serving on a panel were Dr. Mark Hamilton, center, and Dr. Candice Ortbals-Wiser, right. Hamilton is professor of biblical studies at ACU and Ortbals-Wiser is associate professor of political science. Photo by Loretta Fulton

The following blurb is posted on the Eerdmans Publishing Company website, publisher of the book. Books can be ordered at

“Many American policy makers are squeamish about religion’s role in diplomacy. Nevertheless, religion plays a crucial and complex part in global affairs, such as in sustainable development, various human rights issues, and fomenting and mitigating conflict. Shaun A. Casey, the founding director of the US Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, makes a compelling case for the necessity of understanding global religion in Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom.

In this fresh and provocative narrative, Casey writes frankly about his work integrating sophisticated, research-driven policy into the State Department under Secretary of State John Kerry. Their new strategy went beyond older paradigms that focused myopically on religious freedom or countering violent extremism. Such reductive approaches, Casey insists, cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars in the US’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2003. Witty and astute, Casey recounts his team’s challenges in DC politics as well as in the major global events of his tenure, including climate change, the rise of ISIL, and the refugee crisis.  

On a global stage with higher stakes than ever, effective diplomacy is imperative. Yet in this critical moment, the United States’s reputation has faltered. Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom offers a path forward to better foreign policy.”

Loretta Fulton is editor of Spirit of Abilene 

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