In his Wednesday afternoon posting at nytimes.com, "Religious Conservatives Embrace Proposed E.P.A. Rules," Times reporter Theodore Schleifer lent a megaphone to a prayer circle of alleged "conservative Christians" and "parts of the religious right" who favor more stringent EPA regulations on coal plants. The only thing missing from his report? Actual conservative Christians.
It's the latest gullible "strange new respect" story in which the New York Times embraces religion, at least when allegedly "conservative" religious groups conveniently embrace liberal stands on issues like illegal immigration or the environment. Actual Christian conservatives by the standard definition of the term are nowhere to be found.
But Schleifer, a speechwriting intern for Obama during the 2012 campaign, swallowed the idea whole in his piece, probably destined for Thursday's print edition:
The Rev. Lennox Yearwood punched his fist in the air as he rhythmically boomed into the microphone: “This is a moment for great leadership. This is a moment for our country to stand up. This is our moment.”
But Mr. Yearwood’s audience was not a church. It was the Environmental Protection Agency.
The E.P.A. on Tuesday held the first of two days of public hearings on its proposed regulation to cut carbon pollution from power plants, and mixed in with the coal lobbyists and business executives were conservative religious leaders reasserting their support for President Obama’s environmental policies -- at a time when Republican Party orthodoxy continues to question the science of climate change.
More than two dozen faith leaders, including evangelicals and conservative Christians, are expected to speak at the E.P.A. headquarters in Washington by the time the hearings conclude on Wednesday.
“The science is clear,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, the senior director of mobilizing for Sojourners, an evangelical organization with a social justice focus. “The calls of city governments -- who are trying to create sustainable environments for 25, 50 years -- that’s clear.”
Sojourners is led by leftist Jim Wallis, who called for war crime investigations of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. It's not a "conservative Christian" group by any stretch. And Lennox Yearwood, who as president of the Hip Hop Caucus called for the defunding of the Iraq war, makes for an unlikely conservative Christian.
Ms. Harper was one of about 20 interfaith activists who quietly sang “Hallelujah” and Jewish spirituals in a prayer circle outside the environmental agency’s 12th Street entrance here on Tuesday. Mr. Yearwood and three other faith leaders spoke at the hearings on Tuesday. Some 20 others are to make remarks on Wednesday.
Although many of the faith leaders come from traditionally progressive congregations, like black churches, synagogues and mainstream Protestant denominations, others were more conservative Christians who reflect a growing embrace of environmentalism by parts of the religious right. This week’s hearings on the new E.P.A. rule gives them an opportunity to make their argument that climate change hurts the world’s poor through natural disasters, droughts and rising sea levels, and that it is part of their faith to protect the planet.
Schleifer's example of a "conservative Christian"? Richard Cizik, who hasn't been one for at least a decade.
“I have been called by God to speak out on these issues and believe it is my conviction as an evangelical Christian that we must be stewards of God’s creation,” the Rev. Richard Cizik, a former top lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals and now president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, plans to say Wednesday at the E.P.A. hearing in Washington, according to his prepared remarks.
But in recent years a number of well-known conservative religious groups have embraced global warming as a serious concern. The National Association of Evangelicals first began pushing for an assertive climate change policy during the George W. Bush administration. The Christian Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson, lobbied in 2009 and 2010 for a climate change bill that ultimately failed on Capitol Hill.
The leader of the NAE during the time it pushed for a "climate change policy?" None other than Richard Cizik, who resigned in 2008 after coming out in favor of civil unions. Schleifer had more sources with anti-GOP points to make under the rubric of evangelical Christianity.
“Rather than letting our faith dictate our politics, we’ve gotten to the point for many of us where we’re letting our politics -- typically what the Republican Party says -- dictate our faith,” Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian who is a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, said in a telephone interview. “Caring about God’s creation and caring about God’s people is entirely consistent with caring for your neighbor.”