EPA Receives Conservative, Religious Leaders’ Support
This week the Environmental Protection Agency held public hearings on its proposed regulation to cut carbon pollution from power plants. While the Republican Party orthodoxy continues to question the science of climate change and the necessity of the EPA’s rules, conservative religious leaders showed up to the public hearings to support the proposed rules, even arguing that the rules should be stronger.
“God said ‘the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants,” said David Kepley, and elder and deacon at the Providence Presbyterian Church, during a meeting with the EPA on Wednesday. “Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.”
Kepley was just one of the many leaders from the Presbyterian, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Quaker, and Baptist congregations who spoke in support of the rule. Leaders from Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Baha’i groups also voiced their support. Their reasoning ranged from a moral obligation from God to protect the planet — the idea of stewardship — to a concern about the wellbeing of vulnerable communities that will be the hardest hit by environmental damage.
“Climate change disproportionately impacts the very people who we are called to serve,” said Patricia Bruckbauer, an eco-justice fellow at Creation Justice Ministries. “Those who have consistently contributed the least to our changing climate are generally the ones who suffer the most . . . low-income communities, communities of color, the elderly and children.”
“This is not about polar bears; it’s not about future life; it’s about current reality and children’s health,” Mitch Hescox, a Republican and president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, told Think Progress in a telephone interview. “We’re not going to get anywhere if it remains a liberal issue.”
While regulating carbon pollution has drawn sharp criticism from Republicans (the party conservative Christians are often associated with), a growing number of conservative religious groups have embraced environmental protection and global warming as a serious concern in recent years. The National Association of Evangelicals began pushing for an assertive climate change policy during the George W. Bush administration. The Christian Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson, unsuccessfully lobbied in 2009 and 2010 for a climate change bill. And, when the EPA’s proposed regulations were first made public in June, religious groups such as Interfaith Power & Light and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops were quick to show their support.
But there’s always the hold outs. Earlier this week, Alabama state officials actually requested that people pray to God to block the proposed carbon pollution rule, saying that the regulations violated God’s laws. And of course there’s the Cornwall Alliance, a conservative group that calls climate science a bunch of alarmist junk.
“For the most part, people in the climate advocacy movement are ignoring a number of various biblical texts that are more specifically relevant to the issue,” said E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. “They’re quoting broad general texts that everyone would agree with.”
For the religious leaders speaking out in support of the EPA’s proposed carbon pollution rule, however, doing something about climate change is just a basic responsibility — a fulfillment of God’s laws.
“Before man was asked to love his neighbor, love God, or care for the least of these, he was asked to love the earth,” said Rev. Marjani Dele, the minister of missions at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. “You could say that it was a type of first commandment.”
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