Effort to Curtail the EPA Fails Despite Southern Baptist Backing
The budget compromise approved by Congressional leaders last Friday made few evangelical leaders happy. The deal dropped the ban on funding to Planned Parenthood sought by social conservatives. Cuts to foreign aid and hunger programs remained despite outcries from relief organizations. Also dropped was an attempt backed by the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) to curtail efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate green house gases.
The fight against the EPA began last summer when the agency announced that it would begin regulating CO-2 emissions despite failed efforts in Congress to pass so-called "cap and trade" legislation. The Senate voted last year to stop the EPA, and despite lobbying by the ERLC, the American Family Association, and business groups, the effort failed.
With more Republicans in the Senate this year, the GOP leaders in the House and Senate tried again with a two-prong approach: stand-alone legislation to block the EPA and provisions in the budget negotiations that would strip the EPA of funds needed for the new regulations.
When the Senate voted on the stand-alone legislation last week, the ERLC sent an "Action Alert" urging people to ask their Senators to vote for legislation that would stop the EPA's plan to regulate greenhouse gases. The ERLC said that the regulations would unnecessarily hurt the economy.
"The poor would be hit especially hard," the ERLC action alert said. "Making this worse, the whole basis for the policy—catastrophic, human-induced global warming—is not even settled among scientists, who are growing increasingly skeptical of such human impact."
The ERLC's Doug Carlson said, "Caring for God's creation is a biblical mandate. So is caring for the poor. But taking nonsensical regulatory steps that promise little if any environmental gain yet would adversely affect every man, woman and child through job losses and higher costs for energy and everyday commodities is foolhardy. It is all the more reckless for a government agency to do so when Congress has rejected the idea."
The Senate voted, and the stand-alone legislation garnered only 50 votes (60 were necessary for passage). According to Politico, the lack of a simple majority emboldened Democratic leaders who used the outcome to show the lack of Senate support for efforts to cut the EPA's budget.
The Evangelical Environmental Network's (EEN) Jim Ball said that despite the outcome, the U.S. needed more leaders who support environmental causes. "Having more evangelical Christians who are actively engaged in the fight to overcome global warming will go a long way to creating such support," Ball said.
According to a survey last September by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, a vast majority of all Americans (81 percent) and of evangelicals (73 percent) favor tougher environmental laws. However, only one-in-ten evangelicals said that their faith was the biggest reason for their position on the environment, compared to a majority who said religion was the most important reason for their position on same-sex marriage (62 percent) or abortion (53 percent).
Many evangelicals are hearing messages from their pastors on the environment. About 40 percent of evangelicals said their clergy had spoken on the environment. In comparison, 89 percent of clergy spoke on hunger or poverty and a majority (52 percent) made statements on same-sex marriage.