On March 4, professor Ed Carter presented a lecture on justice as part of the Faith + Works series
After years of working professionally as a journalist, attorney and professor, Ed Carter has had numerous hands-on experiences with injustice. He has seen or learned about people from all over the world taken from their families, wrongfully accused of crimes and killed for their journalistic work.
These experiences influenced Carter’s framework of ideas for approaching injustice, which he shared during his Faith and Works lecture on March 4. This framework of transitional justice includes judging righteously, telling the truth, being accountable and making reparation. Carter used his own experience and examples from scriptures to illustrate his points.
The first piece to the transitional justice framework is judging righteously. “Righteous judgment sometimes means allowing and bringing about consequences,” said Carter. “Other times, we have to apply grace and mercy and leave it in God’s hands.”
Carter shared stories from around the world of people experiencing both justice and injustice. He told of a woman who helped her neighbor after a fire in Chile and a man who was wrongfully accused of a crime. He also shared an example from the people in the Book of Mormon.
“Zion was and is created through us being agents for justice for everybody around us,” said Carter. “There were no divisions in society because of political beliefs or statuses. Here at BYU, we can work toward achieving something similar.”
In conjunction with judging righteously, the second piece to Carter’s justice framework is truth-telling. “We need to find truths through debate, discussion, exposure to viewpoints, media and other sources.”
Carter explained the theme of his lecture “error without malice.” This phrase comes from a document created by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. This document argues that we have to allow for some degree of unintentional error from people for freedom of expression.
“We shouldn’t hold speakers liable for unintentional error, even if it causes damage,” Carter said. “Actual malice is defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth.”
Carter invited listeners to rely on good journalism and have tolerance for non-malicious error. “Similar to how the Savior allows us some error, we should offer the same,” said Carter.
“We can seek truth about our own lives through the Holy Ghost, inspiration, revelation, prophets of God and the scriptures,” he said.
Accountability and Reparation
With judging righteously and truth-telling comes the third piece of Carter’s justice framework — accountability and reparation.
“We can also recognize accountability and reparation in our spiritual lives as repentance,” said Carter. “But in the international human rights context, there needs to be a prosecution process.”
Carter shared the story of a case he worked on for a client who was wrongfully deported. While working on this case, he felt a lot of pressure to carry out justice for this man. At one point in the process, he stood in front of ten judges. One of the judges asked Carter a question that left him stumbling for an answer.
“Three years of work and all of these people were waiting for me to help this man. I wondered how I had gotten there — I was just a journalist and a professor,” said Carter.
“What do you do in those key moments when justice hangs in the balance? You do the best that you can,” said Carter. “I relied on my preparation and I provided the best answer I could. This is where mercy and justice came in, because I went home that day feeling like a failure. But a few months later, justice was served despite my inadequacies, and the man I had been fighting for was brought back into the country.”
Reform and Non-Recurrence
The fourth and final piece to this framework of transitional justice is non-recurrence. Carter explained that in the gospel context, we can become new, reinvented versions of ourselves.
In this final part of the lecture, he shared the story from a project he worked on for a series of 10 modules about journalism literacy. The one module he discussed is titled Why People Should Not Kill Journalists. For this module, Carter has done research on over 1,000 unresolved journalist killings. “Most journalists were threatened and refused to stop doing their work and then were killed,” said Carter. “They reported on crime and corruption and somebody was not happy about that.”
Carter’s project is aimed at ending the violence acted out on journalists who are fighting for truth and risking their lives.
Carter also invited students to watch a variety of news sources in the search for truth. “We are told to seek understanding by study and faith. It is not easy. You will not get real news sources on social media, you need to go out and seek them.”
Several students were invited to watch the lecture in-person, including communications student Hannah Koford.
“One of my biggest takeaways was Dr. Carter’s counsel to avoid becoming a part of the culture of dehumanization. Don’t dehumanize journalists. Don’t dehumanize people who disagree with you. Don’t dehumanize people who make mistakes. We can only expect to deal justly and mercifully if we view people as who they are: people,” Koford said.
Carter finished his lecture by answering questions from the in-person audience. One student asked how college students now can start practicing and applying the principles discussed in his lecture.
Carter responded, “Be open to opportunities that come your way. Don’t wait until later, act now. Try to live your life and do fun activities, but also take on challenges. There is never going to be a better time.”