Public Justice Report Summaries 2007-2005
[Editor's Note: The PJR is no longer published, but archives for 2007-2005 are avaliable below. Issues earlier than 2005 will be added in the coming months.]
Please click on the link below to go to a specific issue.
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James Skillen updates the continuing crisis in Darfur, Sudan, drawing on his interview with Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, a surgeon, tropical-disease expert, and medical educator at George Washington University. Geelhoed has taken medical students to almost every country in Africa and has keen insights into life and death in Darfur and beyond.
Steven E. Meyer, a professor at National Defense University and a visiting Fellow at the Center for Public Justice in 2006-2007, raises important questions about American dependence on Pakistan’s president, Perez Musharraf. The Bush administration’s idealism about advancing democracy throughout the world does not square with its actual, realistic practice of supporting the un-democratic leader of Pakistan and the authoritarian regimes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Now the U.S. is in a bind.
Francis Woehrling served for a decade in Washington at the International Monetary Fund and then for nearly two decades in Brussels as an economist for the European Commission’s monetary directorate. A European from Alsace who married an American and pursued graduate study at Michigan State University, Woehrling offers a unique perspective on where Europe and America are headed today.
Steven E. Meyer, introduced above, is an expert on the Balkan region of Europe. His recent article published in the National Interest online is introduced here by the Public Justice Report’s editor. Kosovo, officially a province of Serbia, has been under UN governance since 1999, when NATO troops defeated Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing operations there. The largely Albanian ethnic population of Kosovo wants independence; Serbia does not want to give up its claim to the province. Diplomatic efforts to overcome the divide are to be completed by December 10. Meyer argues for a way forward.
Guidelines for Government and Citizenship are being published by the Center for Public Justice, and seven of them were introduced in earlier issues of the Public Justice Report. Here is the Center’s guideline on security and defense, the eighth one to be introduced by the Report’s editor. All of the guidelines published thus far are available on the Center’s website, as are Skillen’s introductory essays published in past issues of the Report.
Palos Heights, Illinois, southwest of Chicago, has many churches and a Christian college. In 2000, the city’s Christian mayor, Dean Koldenhoven, was ready to allow Muslims to buy an old church building to establish a mosque. The town council voted him down. But that unusual local battle over religious freedom and the First Amendment has drawn the attention of Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, which has turned the Palos Heights controversy into a case study for its students. Phil Kadner, a local journalist, tells the story.
As we approach the next presidential election, much is getting lost in the sound bytes and candidate posturing. From now until election day, the editor will be holding Conversations on America's Future in towns and halls around the country. Come to one near you or volunteer to host one to help us conclude the celebration of the Center's 30th anniversary.
A new book—Hope in Troubled Times—by Bob Goudzwaard (with Mark Vander Vennen and David Van Heemst) is introduced here with excerpts from the book. The authors believe that there is indeed real hope for those who give up false gods and dangerous ideologies in confronting worldwide poverty, environmental degradation, and the dangers of terrorism.
One of the speakers at a remarkable conference in Chicago on the future of cities in early June was Govert Buijs, a professor of social philosophy at the Free University of Amsterdam. Excerpts are presented in this article from his paper on the origins of civil society in the new cities that were established in the late Middle Ages. But his offering is not just an ancient history lesson; Buijs offers keen insight into what is good and bad in our cities today and why civil-society organizations are so important.
Joyce Ribbens Campbell, a missionary with her husband David Campbell in Guinea, tells the story of how a coalition of civil-society organizations and labor organizations forced Guinea’s president, Lansana Conté, to back down from his most recent dictatorial designs. A leading Christian pastor became the spokesman for the coalition that insisted on the appointment of a prime minister who would govern with greater accountability. Thus far, a civil war has been thwarted and the ill president has been served notice.
The editor introduces the sixth Guideline for Government and Citizenship published by the Center for Public Justice—this one on Human Life. His point of departure is the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent abortion decision, Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the 2003 federal law outlawing partial-birth abortion.
If the presidential election is a horse race, why not include more than two horses? The Editor contends for a more substantive electoral process than the one we now have in order to stimulate genuine civic debate and education. Could an independent or third-party candidate help recharge our system?
James Skillen exposes contradictions and misdirections aplenty in both the Bush administration’s conduct of the “war” in Iraq and in the feeble criticisms and alternatives offered by Democratic presidential candidates. The fact that almost everyone thinks and speaks of our tangled engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a “war” against terrorism is part of the problem. Our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan are not military failures but failures to govern and to establish sound governments in those countries.
Dr. Bruce Wearne, an occasional contributor to the Public Justice Report and a long-time correspondent for the Center for Public Justice in Australia, has recently completed the prodigious task of annotating the published writings of James Skillen, president of the Center for Public Justice. The 150-page text, annotating 336 entries, is titled “Public Justice for All.”
In its tenth Guideline for Government and Citizenship, the Center for Public Justice articulates eight theses that frame its outlook on, and approach to, the formulation of public policy on the environment. The Center’s president, James Skillen, explains each thesis and relates all of them to the contemporary context of national and international arguments over climate change and other threats to the global environment.
This fall, the Center will host its thirteenth annual Kuyper Lecture on the subject of the foundations of law. The time and location of the lecture will be announced in the near future. The lecturer will be Prof. Roy Clouser, recently retired from the College of New Jersey where he taught philosophy for decades. Following a brief introduction by the editor, an excerpt from Clouser’s book The Myth of Religious Neutrality is offered here.
This academic year, Steven Meyer, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., has been a visiting Fellow at the Center for Public Justice. His project has been to explore the rapidly changing configurations of political, military, and economic institutions around the world. We present here an excerpt from a major essay he has written for a book on this subject.
Prof. Steven Meyer offers a critical assessment of the Bush administration’s foreign policy as it deals with the Middle East, North Korea, Russia, and Iran. “The combination of Washington’s ideological rigidity and the gathering strength of challengers,” he writes, “have led to an American weakness in the international arena that we have not seen since just before World War II.”
Gail Jansen, an attorney in Tucson, Arizona and a former trustee of the Center for Public Justice, explains what is happening in Arizona with statewide school reform. Arizona leads the nation in the development of tax credits for gifts to scholarship funds that support parental choice of diverse schools, including religious schools. Arizona also offers a corporate tax credit for gifts to scholarship funds.
In his Editor’s Watch this issue, James Skillen tries to explain why so few Americans see public service as a meaningful vocation. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice needs to borrow military personnel to help staff the U.S. embassy in Iraq. In other areas of government there is also a talent drain. None of this bodes well for the future health of the republic. What will it take for young people to hear the call to public service?
In his Editor's Watch, James Skillen reflects on the Center's 30th anniversary this year. Founded in 1977, the organization opened its Washington office in 1982. With thankfulness for 30 years, the organization continues to focus on the work at hand and on plans for the future.
Skillen argues that the Iraqi Study Group's report, President Bush's current policy adjustments, and those calling for a draw-down of American troops all continue to think in terms of “war.” The problem in Iraq, however, is not America's failure to win a military victory but the lack of a sound government. The U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein but did not put good government in its place, as was its obligation.
The European Christian Political Movement held its second Congress in Brussels on December 6-7, 2006, and the Center's James Skillen and Stanley Carlson-Thies were invited to speak. Here are excerpts from the congress document, “A Christian-Social Contribution to Europe,” and from Skillen's address.
This is the fifth in our series of commentaries on the Center's Guidelines for Government and Citizenship, this one on welfare policy. The editor draws attention to a new book by Lew Daly, God and the Welfare State, which applauds the work of Abraham Kuyper and notes the contribution of the Center for Public Justice to American welfare reform.
The editor introduces a 30-minute documentary titled Outlawed, on extraordinary rendition, torture, and disappearances. It is well worth seeing. The DVD focuses on two stories of Muslims captured, tortured, and secretly detained by the United States.
A fine book by Kenneth Grasso and Robert Hunt, titled Catholicism and Religious Freedom, brings together valuable essays on the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae-on religious freedom. The book's primary concern is with the unfinished agenda articulated in that document and the lack of attention paid to it by American Catholics.
Krishna Napit, a Nepali with wide experience in his country's development efforts, assesses the prospects for reform after the government and Maoist guerrillas agreed last November 21 to draw up a new constitution. Robert Wolfgramm, editor of the Fiji Daily Post, and Bruce Wearne shed light on problems leading to, and flowing from, the coup in Fiji in early December.
Xavier Pickett, who directs a group called Reformed Blacks of America, expresses appreciation for the book The Covenant with Black America, edited by Tavis Smiley. But Pickett says the book does not go far enough in asking how real communities are to be built and what kind of covenant is necessary to bind them together.
The media make it sound like November 7 could bring big changes. But historical evidence and our electoral system combine to suggest that all the hype about election day is misleading. James Skillen explains why very few congressional races are competitive and little will change after the voting is over.
Health-care policy expert, Clarke Cochran, says that the critical issues of uninsured citizens, the future of Medicare, and the rising cost of health care will not be at the top of voter concern this year. He urges readers to take seriously this crisis that is not receiving the attention it deserves in Washington.
The editor summarizes arguments presented at a September forum in Washington, D.C. hosted by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). Two authorities on military policy explain why America's future actions in Iraq or in any other place must be very different from the failing efforts currently running their course.
Donald Kruse, former American foreign service officer in the Middle East, urges America's foreign policy elite to return to U.N. Resolution 242 as the basis for seeking peace and a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel.
Last June, the Christian Reformed Church of North America adopted a well-rounded report, updating its pastoral thinking on war, peace, and just governance. Presented in this article are excerpts from the Prologue with information on how to obtain the 70-page report.
Number four in the series of Guidelines for Government and Citizenship published by the Center for Public Justice focuses on education policy. Center president, James Skillen, comments on the eight theses of this Guideline that articulate government's responsibility to do justice to the diverse families and schools responsible for education and to end the monopoly privileges of government-run schools.
A brief announcement of a new study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C. with information about how to obtain its report on "Black Churches and the Faith-Based Initiative."
Editor Skillen enters an argument between Prof. Michael Sandel at Harvard and legal philosopher Thomas Nagel over the moral and legal basis for restricting or supporting abortion. There is something wrong on both sides of this argument, the editor says.
Editor James Skillen comments on the third of the Center's Guidelines for Government and Citizenship, this one on the task of citizenship. Citizenship is a life-long responsibility that requires an ability to make judgments about the well-being of one's political community and the world. And to form such judgments requires cooperative, organized efforts of research, education, argument, and action.
Harry der Nederlanden, editor of the Canadian biweekly Christian Courier, assesses the rapid “left-leaning” changes in government taking place across Latin America. He illuminates the difference between populism—some of it radical—and the older modes of socialism and communism.
Alan Storkey, a British educator, political commentator, and author (most recently of Jesus and Politics ), anticipates possible consequences of the mounting U.S. foreign debt. In terms of trade imbalances and the outright foreign acquisition of American businesses and properties that debt has grown to some $5 trillion. What will happen when the debt collector calls?
Prabhu Guptara, a business management consultant working in Switzerland, reviews Jeff Faux's new book, The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future—and What it Will Take to Win it Back. Guptara does not buy all of Faux's class-based analysis, but he agrees that the growing gap between the world's rich and poor is due in part to the collusion of political and business elites to set the rules of business, trade, and investment to their own advantage.
Andrew Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran with a career in the Army, is a serious critic of the Bush administration's 2006 National Security Strategy (NSS). Bacevich, now teaching at Boston University, offers his criticism in a recent article in The American Conservative magazine. The deeper background to Bacevich's critique can be found in his recent book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. Bacevich's arguments are summarized here.
In his Editor's Watch, Skillen considers some of the reasons why the United States and other nations are not moving more quickly to stop the genocide taking place in Darfur. Ultimately, humanitarian intervention in places like Darfur will require significant limitations of the sovereignty of all states.
No Magic Wand: The Idealization of Science in Law is the title of a new book by David Caudill and Lewis LaRue, from which we excerpt for this article. Anyone concerned with how science is either idealized or neglected in the courtroom-or in legislation and administration-should read this book.
James Skillen, introduces and comments on the eight brief paragraphs of the Center's second Guideline for Government and Citizenship—this one on the task of “Government.”
Ed Kagi writes to the editor to “vent his spleen” on the “mis- and malfeasance” of federal, state, and local governments on everything from Katrina to Iraq. The editor responds empathetically and urges a long-term approach to fundamental reform.
Bruce Wearne explains the Australian government's shamelessness in handling the apparently fraudulent scheme in which the Australian Wheat Board took part through its role in the United Nation's Oil for Food Program in Iraq.
This is a letter from the Center's Stanley Carlson-Thies, on behalf of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, to Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The president has done much, but he still needs to deliver on unfulfilled promises.
Religion and the Death Penalty offers thoughtful essays both in support of and in opposition to capital punishment. It is a helpful and important read on this controversial issue. Contributors include Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Stanley Hauerwas, and seventeen others.
Yes, for more than 50 years the Christian Labour Association of Canada has been doing what unions do, but in a distinctive way. Read its history in this new book, In Pursuit of Justice: So Far, So Good, by Ed Grotenboer.
In his Editor's Watch, Skillen applauds and raises critical questions about a new statement called “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.” Will action follow?
Edward R. Huff, a bio-resource engineer (retired) at the University of Maine, quotes liberal and conservative pundits as well as scientists and energy specialists to make his case that the supply of oil and gas are diminishing even as human use increases. It is time to ramp up fuel taxes both to increase conservation of nonrenewable resources and to promote the development of renewables.
The editor offers a brief summary of an exchange that was published in two issues of the journal Conservation Biology (April and December, 2005). Prof. David Orr (Oberlin College) identified evangelicals with the environmentally careless attitude of the George W. Bush administration. Six respondents, several of them evangelicals, responded critically and in some cases appreciatively, arguing that the best of Christian efforts to advance creation care must increasingly join forces with conservation biologists to advance environmental protection.
Center for Public Justice president James Skillen introduces and comments on the six paragraphs of the Center's first Guideline for Government and Citizenship. In that Guideline on “Political Community” the Center offers a clear, brief summary of what should constitute a community of citizens and government under law. Seven other Guidelines have been published thus far and will be introduced in future issues of the Report.
Woo-Yea Hwang is a remarkable Christian member of Korea's National Assembly, the parliament of the republic whose capital is Seoul. Michael Choi, a Korean-American graduate student, spent the latter half of last year as Mr. Hwang's assistant for foreign affairs and got to know the Assemblyman personally. Choi's article introduces Hwang and his reason for committing himself to public service. Choi also describes some of Hwang's most important leadership efforts.
During 2005, the media gave plenty of attention to a dispute in Dover, Pennsylvania over efforts to qualify the teaching of evolution in the area high school. Intelligent Design came up for examination and criticism because it is the growing challenger to evolutionary theory's dominance in the scientific and educational world. But no one has given a more careful, appreciative, and critical assessment of Intelligent Design than Uko Zylstra, biology professor at Calvin College. In this issue's “Editor's Watch” the work of Zylstra is introduced.
Public Justice Report editor James Skillen evaluates America’s engagement in Iraq in the light of the just-war criteria. These include requirements such as that of a declaration of war by a legitimate authority for a just cause and only as a last resort. Also required is the expectation of success in achieving an outcome of stable governance by means of a properly proportioned use of force. Evaluating the war on these terms is quite different from making utilitarian calculations of whether the ends America wants to achieve are worthy enough to justify using military force to try to achieve them.
In the Editor’s Watch this issue James Skillen argues that the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is the time to make an even greater advance in guaranteeing minorities the right to vote. Americans need the radical reforms of the kind entailed in systems of proportional representation.
Roy Clouser’s important book on the religious grounding of all theories has just been published in a second, revised edition: The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories. The editor offers an introductory overview.
Judith Dean (U.S. International Trade Commission) and two colleagues have edited a valuable book for those who want to get to the root of poverty in developing countries. Attacking Poverty in the Developing World: Practitioners and Academics in Collaboration is the book in which 20 highly qualified authors demonstrate what team work can do while calling for more of it.
Political scientist John Hiemstra cautions those who think that development of the oil sands in his province of Alberta will significantly meet the energy needs of North America and bring perpetual happiness to Albertans. Poverty, environmental degradation, and skewed economic development appear to be the unsustainable by-products.
Economist Prabhu Guptara points out the good and the bad of globalization. Yet he argues that technological momentum, overproduction at a time of growing world poverty, and an outdated economic theory of scarcity are driving us in the wrong direction.
This is an excerpt from the June 21 congressional testimony of Stanley Carlson-Thies, director of social policy studies at the Center for Public Justice. Congress needs to take seven essential steps, he argues, to secure government’s equal treatment of the hundreds of nongovernment service providers that cooperate with it in addressing social needs.
James Skillen compares and evaluates three new books: Jubilee Manifesto, published in England and edited by Michael Schluter and John Ashcroft; Toward an Evangelical Public Policy, edited by Ron Sider and Diane Knippers for the National Association of Evangelicals; and God’s Politics, by Jim Wallis. Skillen looks at (1) how they appeal to God and use the Bible, (2) what they try to inspire or cause to happen, and (3) what they tell us about the quality and potential of Christian citizenship today.
The editor argues that the moment for achieving positive change in the Middle East is upon us. But for Israel and the Palestinians to make further progress, the United States must do more now to bring the two sides together.
James Skillen comments on an essay by Lew Daly in the spring issue of the Boston Review that looks into the background of the Center for Public Justice because of its influence on Clinton and Bush policies for welfare reform. Daly’s is an important, if somewhat misleading, essay.
Alice-Catherine Carls introduces a pocket-size book by Tennessee state senator Roy Herron titled How Can a Christian Be in Politics? Not only can a Christian be in politics, he and she should be, says Herron. With stories and illustrations from more than 20 years in politics, Herron explains his Christian vision for pursuing justice, protecting life, and advancing the common good.
Lawrence Uzzell, head of International Religious Freedom Watch, evaluates the latest annual World Report from Human Rights Watch. He appreciates the self-criticism of one article on "Religion and the Human Rights Movement." Yet the author concludes that Human Rights Watch is overlooking or supporting religious discrimination even as it works to expose other human rights violations.
Terry Woodnorth provides a detailed report (with numerous links) on National Hunger Awareness Day and the One Table, Many Voices conference, held in Washington, D.C., June 4-7. Bread for the World and Call to Renewal organized the events that brought together groups from around the country to worship, lobby, and encourage one another to work toward ending world hunger.
Lawren Sinnema reviews the book Protestant Political Parties: A Global Survey by Paul Freston, an authority on Christian political engagement in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The book introduces and compares Protestant parties in more than 40 countries. Some parties in Europe have been around for more than a century. Those in the Third World are a mostly new phenomenon.
The editor comments on the March decision by California Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer, who ruled that "no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage . . . to opposite-sex partners." There are, in fact, long-standing "rational purposes" for such a limit, but Judge Kramer simply dismissed them.
The Center for Public Justice is grounded in the conviction that a constructive contribution by citizens to American political life depends on a principled understanding of government’s responsibility. To foster a healthy society and good government the Center is now releasing its first eight Guidelines on Government and Citizenship. They address political community, the task of government, the responsibility of citizens, welfare policy, education policy, security and defense, life, and homosexuality. More will follow in the months and years ahead.
Stanley Carlson-Thies looks at the charge leveled recently by David Kuo that the Bush administration is not giving high-level support to the president’s faith-based initiative. Carlson-Thies served with Kuo in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001-2002 and contends that even though much remains to be done, the president has in fact initiated very significant reforms at the federal level to give support to social-service providers.
Yes, the Social Security system needs to be fixed, says the editor. But the looming financial crisis of that system cannot be abstracted from the larger generational transition that is taking place. The big picture must include Medicare and modes of taxation as well as Social Security if any crisis is to be averted.
This is a review of two books. The first is The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen (both at Redeemer University College in Ontario). The second is Jesus and Politics: Confronting the Powers by Alan Storkey (a founder of the Movement for Christian Democracy in England). They offer gripping reading that greatly illuminates the meaning of politics and God’s kingdom today. Anyone familiar with the Bible can, and should, read these books.
Excerpts are presented here from the final chapter of James Skillen’s newest book, With or Against the World? America’s Role among the Nations. The United States, says the author, should have as one of its highest priorities in world affairs to help "reform, strengthen, and create international organizations for the better governance of the world." Skillen also warns that "we may well be facing a crisis of international law and order today more profound than the crisis that emerged with World War II."
Bruce Wearne, our editorial adviser from Australia, writes, "If anyone challenges the commitment to pragmatism, he or she will be dismissed as a grandstanding dogmatist, someone out of touch with political reality." Wearne goes on to describe the "decline of meaningful parties in a democratic system." The condition of Australian politics will not appear unfamiliar to Americans.
A brief review introduces a new book, published by the Center for Public Justice, that has been sent to legislators and other public officials throughout the country—at both state and federal levels. The book is The Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations to Staff on a Religious Basis by Carl Esbeck, Stanley Carlson-Thies, and Ronald Sider. This is one of the most controversial subjects in relations between faith-based social-service organizations and the government. This book is the authority—the most complete and detailed assessment available of the law and politics on this issue.
This essay introduces and reviews two books: first, and primarily, Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth: The Liberation of Christianity from its Cultural Captivity (Crossway Books, 2004), and second, David K. Naugle’s Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans, 2002). The first is a best-selling exploration of how Christians have become bogged down by dualistic views of life and what they need to do to become full, free, and productive Christians. Naugle’s book is more academic, but for anyone who wants to know what’s behind all of today’s "worldview talk," this is the book to read.
The Editor’s Watch this quarter hypothesizes that if Bill Clinton was our first postmodern president, as some have argued, then George W. Bush is our second. Bush’s "social-constructivist" approach to policy making and his efforts to impose his political will reveal him to be more a man of pragmatic gusto than a man carefully attuned to principles of justice.
David Van Heemst is the author of Empowering the Poor, Why Justice Requires School Choice (Scarecrow Education, 2004). Building on the work of Charles L. Glenn and others, Van Heemst makes the case for real pluralism in education, with real choices for parents, and why these reforms will do more than anything else to empower the poor in America.
Significant excerpts are presented here from the second chapter of James Skillen’s forthcoming book with this title. The subtitle is America’s Role among the Nations (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, due out at the end of February). This first of two installments from the book focuses on the "forgotten depths" of history that lie behind America’s response to terrorism. Americans know too little of the history of Islam and the rise of Islamic radicalism, but they also know too little about the birth of the United States as a "nation with the soul of a church."
Stanley Carlson-Thies reviews a book that will surprise those who have little good to say about combative Evangelicals in American politics. The book—Like the Stars, Leading Many to Righteousness—is by an evangelical pastor, Glenn Parkinson, who calls his fellow-believers to a positive role in society rather than to a negative one. The goal of Christians should be to serve their neighbors and bless them with good things, not to try to defeat them in a culture war. Integrity and public forthrightness should go hand in hand with a generous way of life that can lead neighbors to a high regard for their fellow citizens who are Christians.
What should we make of George W. Bush's solid victory last November? Public Justice Report editor, James Skillen, offers his assessment, drawn from a speech he was invited to give in Beijing, China on December 8 at a conference of leading America-watchers. Skillen argues that the so-called "moral values" vote, which includes an attitude toward economic issues and foreign policy, must be understood against the backdrop of the tension between America's Puritan and Enlightenment traditions, each struggling for dominance in our nationally weak federal system.