» Our Team

Mark Tooley

Prior to joining the IRD in 1994, Mark worked eight years for the Central Intelligence Agency. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a native of Arlington, Virginia. A lifelong United Methodist, he has been active in United Methodist renewal since 1988, when he wrote a study about denominational funding of pro-Marxist groups for his local congregation. He attends a United Methodist church in Alexandria, Virginia.  Mark Tooley became president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in 2009. He joined IRD in 1994 to found its United Methodist committee (UMAction). He is the author of Taking Back The United Methodist Church, published in 2008, and Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century, published in 2012. His articles about the political witness of America's churches have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The American Spectator, First Things, Patheos, World, Christianity Today, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, Washington Examiner, Human Events, The Washington Times, The Review of Faith and International Affairs, Touchstone, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Post, and elsewhere. He is a frequent commentator on radio and television.


Faith McDonnell

At IRD since 1993, Faith McDonnell is the Director of Religious Liberty Programs and of the Church Alliance for a New Sudan. She writes and speaks on the subject of the persecuted church and has organized rallies and vigils for Sudan in front of the White House, the State Department, the Canadian Embassy, and the Sudanese Embassy. She has drafted legislation on religious persecution for the Episcopal Church and for the United States Congress. In June 2007, her book, Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children, was published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Faith has a BA in English from Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA. She received her master’s degree in English from the University of Maryland.

Faith is a member of Church of the Apostles, Anglican, and serves on the church’s international missions committee. She serves as a board member for several human rights organizations. Faith is married to Francis John McDonnell, and they have a daughter, Fiona.


John Lomperis

John Lomperis

John Lomperis is IRD’s United Methodist Director. God first brought John to IRD in 2004 to serve as a Research Assistant. Since that time, he was promoted to Research Associate, temporarily left IRD to earn a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, wrote his master’s thesis on Wesleyan spirituality among present-day United Methodists and Nazarenes, and came back to serve as Legislative Coordinator for the 2012 General Conference efforts of the United Methodist Renewal and Reform Coalition. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago, and devoted much of both his undergraduate and graduate studies to tracing the rise of theological liberalism within American Methodism. His articles have been published by the Washington Post, the Christian Post, Good News magazine, OrthodoxyToday.org, National Right to Life News, LifeNews.com, and The American Spectator.

John has been a member of the United Methodist Church since his confirmation as a teenager. Through the various geographical chapters of his life, he has been active in United Methodist congregations in four jurisdictions, and is currently on the roster of supply preachers for his district of the denomination. He lives in Chicago with his beautiful Christian wife.


Jeff Walton

Jeff Walton is Communications Manager for the Institute on Religion & Democracy and also serves as a staffer on the Anglican Action program. Prior to joining the IRD, Jeff worked on Capitol Hill for members of Congress from Virginia and North Carolina.

His articles have appeared in Touchstone, Forward in Christ, Inside Catholic, The American Spectator and Human Events.

Jeff worships at Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, Virginia. Jeff holds a degree in Political Science and Communications from Seattle Pacific University.


Chelsen Vicari

Chelsen Vicari

Chelsen Vicari serves as IRD’s Evangelical Program Director. Prior to joining the IRD, she worked for Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest faith-based women’s public policy organization.

Her articles have appeared in TheBlaze, The Christian Post, and RealClearReligion.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and History from Radford University and a Master’s degree in International Politics from Regent University’s Robertson School of Government.


Support Staff


Rick Plasterer

Rick Plasterer

Rick Plasterer is a staff writer for IRD concerned particularly with domestic religious liberty. He attended Eastern Mennonite College (now University) receiving a B.A. degree in history and sociology, and an M.S. in library science from Drexel University. He has served first as a public librarian and then in corporate and federal libraries, most recently working at the library of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office) as a cataloging librarian, analyzing and cataloging documents pertaining to international relations, business, and social policy. He has also served as church librarian at Presbyterian Church of the Atonement in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he has been a member for many years.

From his general interest in Christianity and society, he has been interested and concerned with current challenges to domestic religious liberty, and has worked at publicizing religious liberty stories and concerns through an electronic newsletter to church members and other interested persons.


Kristin Larson

Kristin Larson

Kristin Larson is the Business Manager for IRD. She first joined IRD in 2011 as an Administrative Assistant, and then served as the Evangelical Program Director before departing for a fellowship with the John Jay Institute in 2013. Kristin graduated from The King’s College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

She and her husband, Brett, live in Riverdale Park, Maryland.


Nathaniel Torrey

Nathaniel Torrey

Nathaniel Torrey is the administrative assistant at the IRD. He received his B.A. in the Liberal Arts at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. A convert from agnosticism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, he is interested in the perennial questions of human existence and carrying his cross.