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Religious groups lobby for climate

Environmentally conscious faith groups marshal support for legislation to combat global warming, despite opposition from many of their fellow conservatives.

October 11, 2009|Johanna Neuman

It seems early to be talking about the 2012 presidential election -- after all, we haven't even had the 2010 congressional election -- but this is Iowa we're talking about. You know, first in the nation, caucus state, informed voters.

So more than a few political commentators took notice Wednesday when Iowa Republicans announced that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would be the headline speaker at the "Leadership for Iowa" event at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Nov. 7, where he will share the stage with Republican candidates for Iowa governor.

Matt Strawn, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, called Pawlenty "an innovative, conservative leader" and predicted that his "message of balanced budgets, lower taxes and market-based reforms for healthcare and education will resonate with all Iowans."

It may be three years before the election, but as the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza points out, two of Pawlenty's potential opponents -- former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts -- finished one-two in last year's Iowa caucus.

Never too early to campaign in Iowa, apparently.


Religious groups lobby on climate

It may make for strange bedfellows, but religious groups are marshaling a nationwide campaign to support legislation to combat global warming, a bill that many of their fellow conservatives vehemently oppose.

A group of Orthodox Jews pushed the issue during their annual lobbying effort at the White House and on the Hill last month, stressing that U.S. reliance on Arab oil endangers Israel but also pushing the Bible's instruction to tend the garden. Pope Benedict XVI has joined the environmental bandwagon, earning the nickname "the green Pope" for proclamations such as, "The environment is God's gift to everyone."

On Thursday, a group called Faithful America launched a grass-roots campaign, complete with petitions and a video, urging Congress to "support a climate bill that addresses the root causes of climate change and makes needed investments in vulnerable communities already experiencing its devastating effects."

The campaign's title, Day Six, is a reference to the creation story in Genesis, in which God made human beings stewards of creation. "On the sixth day, we were made in God's image and given responsibility to care for the earth and each other," says the group's website. "Today, we must fulfill that charge."

For 30 years, evangelical conservatives dominated Republican politics, earning them the sobriquet the Religious Right.

Now, environmentally conscious people of faith are testing the waters.

In June, they helped push a cap-and-trade bill through the House. With the healthcare debate and Afghanistan consuming the Senate and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launching an assault on the bill and suffering defections from green companies, the legislation's supporters are hoping the religious enviros can make the difference again.

"The work first emerged among mainline Protestant and liberal Jews and Catholics," the Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, told U.S. News & World Report.

"They were looking to reassert a religious voice for the common good and social justice after 30 years of a conservative evangelical take on public issues."


Neuman writes for The Times.

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