Ethics and Public Policy Center

The Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) is a nonprofit research organization “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”


Ernest Lefever, a Protestant minister, founded EPPC in 1976 to champion anti-communism and the rise of evangelical Christians. He led the group until 1989 and continued to write for the organization until his death in 2009.

Based in Washington, D.C., the organization’s interreligious staff of 24 scholars write books, publish op-eds, appear on TV and radio, and testify at legislative hearings. EPPC works with members of Congress and with the White House to influence the debate over a variety of political issues. These include federal judicial nominations, the role of religion in public life, protecting America against terrorism, and the role of science in public policy.  

EPPC Policy Priorities 

EPPC is especially active in the following areas:

  • Restoring the Courts to Their Proper Constitutional Role: EPPC believes that activist judges ignore the constitutionally intended role of the judiciary, and implement policy positions that should be left to democratically-elected bodies.  
  • Defeating Islamo-Fascist Terrorism: EPPC educates the public about what it sees as the need to defeat Islamic fascists whose goal is to destroy American freedom and take human lives. 
  • Stopping the Destruction of Human Embryos for Stem Cells: EPPC’s view is that it is immoral to destroy human embryos in order to extract stem cells, and advocates alternative research methods.

Ending Judicial Activism

EPPC president Edward Whelan directs the organization’s “Program on The Constitution, the Courts, and the Culture.” Whelan accuses activists of misusing the courts to enact, under the cover of the Constitution, unpopular policies that they cannot enact through the democratic process. This has given them a “series of undeserved victories” in the areas of capital punishment, criminal procedure, and abortion.

EPPC seeks the replacement of activist judges who aim to

  • impose same-sex marriage laws;
  • remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance; and
  • subject Americans to rules developed by international bureaucrats. 

Whelan worked closely with the Bush Administration to help confirm judges to the federal courts who adhered to a philosophy of judicial restraint. He advised the White House to be aggressive in nominating qualified judges. “If you’re ready to compromise, you’re probably going to end up with someone pretty bad,” Whelan told The Washington Post in 2005.

Whelan strongly supported the 2005 nomination of U.S. appellate judge John Roberts to be the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He cited documents Roberts prepared for U.S. Attorney General William French Smith during the Reagan Administration, in which he said that judicial activism must be rejected because “judges read their personal predilections in the flexible terms of the Constitution, at the expense of the policy choices of the elected representatives of the people.” 

On the other hand, EPPC opposed President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2009 because it considered her an activist judge.

EPPC maintained that Sotomayor wasn’t qualified to serve on the High Court because her rulings raised serious questions about her ability to be impartial. EPPC cited her role in the Ricci v. DeStefano decision. 

In that case, firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut filed a reverse discrimination lawsuit against the city for denying them promotion because not enough minorities passed the promotion exam. In June 2008, Sotomayor joined two other judges on a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to rule against the firefighters. They disposed of the case through a one-paragraph, unpublished, summary order that made no mention of what one jurist called the “questions of exceptional importance.”

In June 2009, during her confirmation process, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the appellate decision and ruled that New Haven was wrong to scrap the promotion exam because it was allegedly unfair to minorities. 

In a debate with Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” Whelan said, “What she did … with her procedural shenanigans … was to try to bury the firefighters’ claims and prevent meaningful review.” 

Opposing the Encroachment of International Law 

The U.S. Supreme Court has been increasingly using foreign law to justify its rulings, and EPPC takes issue with this trend. 

In 2005 testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee, EPPC president Eward Whelan argued that there isn’t “any legitimate basis for the Supreme Court to rely on contemporary foreign laws or decisions in determining the meaning of provisions of the Constitution.” 

He focused on the Court’s 2005 Roper v. Simmons decision. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court relied on foreign law to overturn a death penalty sentence for a 17-year-old murderer. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited the fact that the U.S. is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty.  

In 2005 congressional testimony, Whelan remarked that some Supreme Court justices “see foreign law as another powerful tool that they can wield whenever it suits them.” 

Defeating Islamic Fascism 

In January 2007, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) joined EEPC as a senior fellow to direct its new “Program to Protect America’s Freedom. “ The mission is to identify and publicize the threats to the U.S. from an array of anti-Western forces.

In the fall of 2007, Santorum gave a series of lectures at several universities about the war against radical Islam. “It’s not a coincidence this is being done on college campuses,” said Santorum. “There’s a denial of the problem. You see academics and Muslim student associations that want to shut down discussion of the fact that the enemy is using Islam as a rallying cry for terrorism.” 

In a speech on October 24, 2007 at the University of Pennsylvania, Santorum criticized President Bush for using the term “war on terror.” He considers that a “politically correct” way to avoid the real issue, a war against Islamic fascism. 

The Stem Cell Debate 

EPPC opposes the destruction of human embryos to extract stem cells for medical research. It recognizes the medical value of stem cell research, but believes that there are ethical limits to using embryonic stem cells.  

EPPC endorses research methods that enable scientists to conduct cell research without destroying embryos. It works closely with policymakers to encourage these viable alternatives.  

Prior to becoming an EPPC senior fellow, Yuval Levin was a member of President George W. Bush’s domestic policy staff.  Levin recommended to the President a potential new process known as “somatic cell dedifferentiation.” This takes a mature, adult cell and turns it into the equivalent of an embryonic cell. No human embryos need to be destroyed. In 2007, President Bush signed an executive order to increase support for such techniques. 

On March 9, 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order authorizing expanded federal funding for research using stem cells from destroyed embryos. In addition, Obama revoked the 2007 executive order encouraging the National Institutes of Health to explore non-embryo-destructive sources of stem cells. 

The following day, EPPC adjunct fellow Eric Cohen and EPPC board member Robert George wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Obama’s decision was more political than scientific. The new policy, they wrote, “pays no more than lip service to recent scientific breakthroughs” that enable researchers to produce cells are biologically equivalent to embryonic stem cells without the use of human embryos.