Ernest W. Lefever, 89, who founded a conservative public policy organization in Washington and was an embattled nominee for a State Department human rights job under President Ronald Reagan, died July 29 at a Church of the Brethren nursing home in New Oxford, Pa. He had Lewy Body dementia, a progressive brain disorder.
Dr. Lefever, a Chevy Chase resident, was an international affairs specialist with the National Council of Churches, a staff consultant on foreign affairs to then-Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.) and a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution before starting the Ethics and Public Policy Center in 1976. The center studies the link between Judeo-Christian morality and national and foreign policy.
In 1981, Reagan nominated Dr. Lefever for the State Department position of assistant secretary of human rights. After months of accusations over conflicts of interest involving his think tank and insurmountable controversy about his views of the human rights job, Dr. Lefever withdrew his bid after rejection by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Among those who spoke against Lefever's nomination were his brothers, Don and John. Don testified against his brother at the Foreign Relations Committee meeting. Don is deceased, but his wife Faye is a member at Open Circle.
I first learned about Ernie when I was at PSU working on a Masters in Religious Studies and was reading Reinhold Niebuhr. My adviser clued me into the work and writings of Ernie Lefever. I was very much attracted to Niebuhr's realism at the time and appreciated the fact that there were other Brethren who "got it." My appreciation for Niebuhr remains although my views have evolved back towards a modified pacifism. I didn't retain the same appreciation for Ernie and his positions.
Prayers for his family.