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Religious Leaders Set Bush Energy Plan Against Standards of Biblical Stewardship;
Oppose Reliance on Fossil Fuels, Nuclear Power; Link Energy Policy To Global Warming
Religious Activists From 39 States Plan Grassroot Response to Bush Proposals

"Let There Be Light: An Interfaith Call for Energy Conservation and Climate Justice"

Religious Leaders Form Human Graph at CapitolWASHINGTON, D.C., May 22, 2001 – Highlighting three days of meetings here, more than 200 religious activists held an interfaith "Let There Be Light" rally on Capitol Hill to raise fundamental questions about the Bush administration’s energy plan.

Rally participants included some 200 of the 350 leaders of religious environmental justice ministries from 39 states meeting May 20-23 in Washington under the auspices of the National Council of Churches. Many of those who missed the rally had early appointments with their Senators and Representatives; rally participants followed later.

On Wednesday, conference participants will "return home to organize around a very different vision for our energy future in the pulpits and pews of the American heartland," according to Rev. Richard Killmer, NCC director of environmental justice.

Since 1998, the NCC has been organizing Statewide Interfaith Climate Change Campaigns in 18 states, from West Virginia to Washington, Colorado to both Carolinas. Involving a diverse group of Christian and Jewish communions and denominations, the campaigns work to address climate change and the energy policies and practices that cause it.

At the Capitol Hill rally, activists formed a "human bar graph" on the Capitol lawn to emphasize the connection between energy policy and climate change and to dramatize the disproportionate level of greenhouse gas emissions between the U.S. and other nations.

Making the connection between energy policy and climate change was a significant focus of the environmental justice leaders’ meeting and rally. Religious leaders at the rally called for "binding international agreements" on global warming.

"When this administration announces that it will not keep faith with the Kyoto Protocol process dealing with climate change, it’s time for religious leaders to raise our voices of protest," said United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, of Nashville, Tenn.

"When this administration proposes tax cuts as the primary means for addressing the current energy crisis without confronting the outrageous actions of oil companies, it’s time for religious leaders to raise our voices of outrage and protest," he said. "Yes, we know there are no quick fix solutions to our energy crisis. But we also know that many of the current proposals are not solutions that will result in our being good stewards of God’s creation or doing justice for future generations."

"Conservation should be a centerpiece not an afterthought, a solemn vow not a concession," added the Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the NCC. "U.S. energy use is causing global warming. And the president's plan is only going to make the planet hotter."

Rabbi David Saperstein, speaking for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said, "The President's plan offers some new programs and investment in conservation, new technologies, and energy assistance to low-income Americans."

"However, it would expand our reliance on oil, coal, and nuclear energy which destroys land, pollutes air, and harms public health. It would fail to develop the clean, safe, efficient and sustainable energy system that is now within our grasp. I do not believe that the president's plan yet reflects biblical standards of justice and sustainability."

"It is time for the rich and privileged of the world, especially the United States, to exercise leadership," said the Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, leader of the Indiana Interfaith Global Warming Campaign. "We can and must create a brighter and cleaner energy future, and we must create more equity in access to energy services and improved technologies now. We must ensure fair pricing and not greed from the owners and brokers of electricity and oil. This is what justice demands."

Other rally speakers included Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), who said, "Energy and the environment are not just politics" but matters of faith. "If we believe in God the Creator, we have a special responsibility toward the natural environment and toward each other as well."

Quoting from Genesis, he noted that God put Adam and Eve to work and to guard the Garden of Eden. The Psalms, he noted, remind us that "the Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof."

Lieberman said conservation needs to be at the center of energy policy. "It’s time to think smart about energy," he said. "We need to invest in the kind of technology that made the moon shot possible, to develop energy sources that … don’t pollute." In contrast, the Bush administration’s energy plan, he said, is "relaxing responsibility so more and more junk goes in the air."

Earlier this week, 39 heads of communions (denominations) and senior leaders of major American faith groups issued an "Open Letter" calling on the President, Congress and the American people "to redirect our national energy policy toward conservation, efficiency, justice and maximum use of the perennial abundance of clean and renewable energy that our Creator brought into being by proclaiming, 'Let there be light' (Gen. 1:3)."

"We are called to ‘till and to tend the garden’ (Gen 2:15)," the leaders wrote. "We have a moral obligation to choose the safest, cleanest and most sustainable sources of energy to protect and preserve God's creation. Energy conservation is faithful stewardship."

The letter was signed by senior religious leaders and heads of communions/denominations who serve over 60 million Americans.


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