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History of the Center for Public Justice

Our Founding

In 1977, after a decade of discussions involving students, faculty, church members and public officeholders in Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan,  Association for Public Justice (APJ) and the APJ Education Fund (later, the Center for Public Justice) were established to develop an integral Christian perspective on politics, law, and society.

APJ co-sponsored the first International Christian Political Conference, bringing together nearly 700 Christians from the United States and Canada to discuss a range of topics. Senator Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon delivered the keynote address, “Confessing Christ and Doing Politics,” emphasizing the importance of Christian political thought and action.

Our Early Years

Rockne McCarthy and James Skillen testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in support of the Tuition Tax Credit Act, to allow parents in non-state schools to deduct a portion of the tuition payment from their federal income taxes.

Skillen, McCarthy, and William Harper then published APJ’s first book, Disestablishment a Second Time: Genuine Pluralism for American Schools.  APJ published Christians Organizing for Political Service, a primer defining the importance of civic responsibility, whose words still inspire.

By 1982, APJ opened the Washington, DC office to focus on critical policy initiatives and developed several early policy papers, including “Just Defense” against nuclear weapons and “Just Representation” about important electoral reforms including proportional representation.

For the next four decades, the renamed Center for Public Justice has grown to become known as the nation’s leading Christian, nonpartisan think tank, conducting policy research, developing and advocating for policy proposals in our pluralistic society.

What Distinguishes CPJ?

Most people notice these distinctives of CPJ right away:

  • Comprehensive Approach
  • Christian & Nonpartisan 
  • Principled Pluralism
  • Global Perspective

The essay linked below, “What Distinguishes the Center for Public Justice,” written by founding president James W. Skillen, provides a deeper look at the roots and soil of the organization that has grown for over four decades.

Guidelines and Principles

CPJ’s History

CPJ’s Team

CPJ’s Board

Annual Reports

CPJ Distinctives


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