Religious right bashes green evangelicals for supporting EPA rules

Religious-right leaders are slamming a green evangelical group for casting support for Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut power plant mercury emissions as a "pro-life" position.

In a lengthy statement, religious leaders including Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, officials with Focus on the Family and other groups that oppose abortion rights take aim at the Evangelical Environmental Network’s ad campaign in favor of EPA’s rules.

It notes that "most environmental causes promoted as pro-life involve little threat to human life itself, and no intent to kill anyone." The statement says the term “pro-life” denotes "opposition to a procedure that intentionally results in dead babies."

The statement adds:

This doesn’t mean we should ignore environmental risks. It does mean they should not be portrayed as pro-life. Genuinely pro-life people will usually desire to reduce other risks as well — guided by cost/benefit analysis. But to call those issues “pro-life” is to obscure the meaning of the term.

Mercury harms the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb and can impair learning and early development, among other harms associated with emissions of the toxic substance, according to EPA.

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The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) last year launched a campaign in support of the EPA rules to cut mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants, which were finalized in December but are under attack from Republicans and some industry groups that call them too aggressive.

EEN could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The group's campaign included ads targeting lawmakers, including several who oppose abortion rights, urging them to support the EPA rules, which the House last year voted to scuttle. The Senate did not follow suit.

"I believe every life is a precious gift from God," states a woman identified in the TV ads as "Pastor Tracey," who is an "evangelical mom and church leader." She adds that "I expect members of Congress to protect the unborn."

“I expect members of Congress who say they are pro-life to use that power to protect that life, especially the unborn,” she similarly says in the radio spots.

The group’s ads have been directed at lawmakers including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and others.

EEN is a group that seeks to “equip, inspire, disciple, and mobilize God's people in their effort to care for God's creation.”

The statement from the religious-right leaders says that if green activists want to support the mercury rules and other environmental policies, they should do so “honestly and above-board.”

“But they should not promote those causes under the pro-life banner,” the statement notes.

A press release accompanying the statement criticizes the recent EPA rules. Wayne Grudem, a theology professor at Phoenix Seminary who signed the statement, calls the EPA rules “excessive and unreasonable” and says they will raise energy costs, hurting the poor.

The statement was circulated by Cornwall Alliance, a conservative religious group that sees a “moral necessity of ecological stewardship” but advocates a “proper and balanced biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development. “

The group differentiates between “well-founded” environmental concerns such as inadequate sanitation and “unfounded” concerns such as “destructive manmade global warming” and rampant species loss.

The group opposes the overwhelming view among scientists that human activities — notably greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use — are driving global warming.