William Werpehowski is a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University. He is also the director of Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice Education, an interdisciplinary program that offers students both a minor and a concentration in issues of “world peace and social justice.”
Werpehowski teaches the course War and Morality, which examines the moral issues surrounding the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the war in Bosnia, the Iraq War, and the War on Terror. The course catalog description for the class reads as follows:
“How are moral reflection and the reality of warfare related to one another? This course will study three traditions of reflection bearing on these questions. The theory of the ‘just war’ in Christianity seeks to account for circumstances when a people’s resort to arms is tragically necessary and morally permitted. The second approach, Christian pacifism, rejects the idea that warfare is warranted by claims of justice. The third tradition concerns the understanding of war and peace in the religion of Islam.”
Werpehowski has made his views about the War in Iraq publicly known, both inside and outside the classroom. Prior to the start of the conflict, Werpehowski was a signatory to a Sojourners Magazine-published letter entitled, “We Must Oppose This War,” which stated, “We believe that U.S. war against Iraq would be unjust and immoral. As a ‘pre-emptive’ attack unprecedented in our history, it would dishonor our nation, disregard morality, and violate international law. . . . A potential threat is not sufficient for war. Even if posed by a ruthless dictator, it is not enough that he might possess weapons of mass destruction, and that he might use them against us (or our allies) at some vague time in the future.” The letter went on to trivialize Saddam Hussein as someone who, though he “has often been reckless,” nonetheless “knows that he could not use weapons of mass destruction without bringing down ruin on himself.” The letter failed to address Hussein’s past genocidal efforts and his quest for Mideast dominance.
Werpehowski, along with fellow Center for Peace and Justice Education professor Suzanne Toton, was also a signatory to a Villanova campus faculty document opposing the Iraq war. The document read, “Some of us oppose this naked exercise of force because we consider that as a weakened military power under intense international surveillance, Iraq has not constituted a danger to its neighbors, let alone to the United States. Finally, some of us oppose this war because, in addition to the reasons already given, we regard it as a transparent attempt to intimidate the entire world community.”
In addition, Werpehowski publicly endorsed a January 2005 campaign titled “The Anti-Gonzales Initiative.” This open letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was written by Church Folks for a Better America, a self-described “online initiative for peace.” The letter stated, “As a self-professed evangelical Christian, you surely know that all people are created in the image of God. You see it as a moral imperative to treat each human being with reverence and dignity. . . . We are concerned that as White House counsel you have shown a troubling disregard for international laws against torture, for the legal rights of suspected ‘enemy combatants,’ and for the adverse consequences your decisions have had at home and abroad.” Another signer of this document, along with Werpehowski, was Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. In 1998, Bray – who sits on the Advisory Boards of the American Muslim Council, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and who has worked with International ANSWER – coordinated and led a Washington rally of 2,000 activists who chanted, “Let’s all go into jihad, and throw stones at the face of the Jews.”
Werpehowski was also the moderator of a panel discussion titled “Sanctions and Their Impact,” which was part of the 1999 Villanova University Symposium on “Iraq: History, People and Politics.” Speakers participating in Werpehowski’s panel included: Kathy Kelly, the director of Voices in the Wilderness, who has blamed the long-term suffering of the Iraqi people on UN sanctions rather than on the abuses of Saddam Hussein; and Rania Masri, the coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition, who believes that the Iraq War was caused solely by American imperialism and lust for oil.