People of faith should support “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that gives concreteness to the twin moral imperatives of care for creation and care for the poor.


The ambitious and comprehensive bill promises to create millions of clean energy jobs, increase American security from foreign oil, protect the planet by capping global-warming gases and increase energy efficiency.


Testifying in late April before the Energy and Environment Subcommittee with former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), Al Gore said, “Our country is at risk on three fronts. The economic crisis is clear. Our national security remains at risk so long as we remain dangerously dependent on flows of foreign oil from reserves owned by sovereign states that are vulnerable to disruption …. Most importantly … we are—along with the rest of humanity—facing the dire and growing threat of the climate crisis.”


The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient said, “I am here today to lend my support to one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress. I believe this legislation has the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s.”


After the bill passed on a 33-25 vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Gore urged Congress “to further strengthen this excellent legislation” and “to pass this bill in both the House and the Senate this year.”


Even with Gore’s support, the environmental group Greenpeace criticized the bill for making compromises, including ones that favor dirty coal.


Not surprisingly, some “free-market” extremists attacked the bill, claiming it created too much government regulation. Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) made an unhinged charge that the bill set up “a global warming Gestapo.”


Mostly under the radar, some respectable Christians have expressed concern that the bill does not provide enough adaptive aid to the global poor who will suffer the most from climate change. That point alone should cause people of faith to pause about the bill.


Nonetheless, an imperfect bill should not sideline people of faith from supporting it. We must not allow the tyranny of moral perfectionism to block the urgency of moral realism. Our faith calls us to care for creation and the poor in the concrete, not in the abstract. Protecting the environment protects the marginalized. One realistic step toward protecting both is supporting the House climate bill.


In April 2008, Baptist Center for Ethics sent a letter to the U.S. Senate calling on senators to pass climate-change legislation and applauding Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Ind-Conn.) for introducing bipartisan legislation.


Delivered to Senate offices via e-mail, the letter bore the signatures of more than 140 Baptist leaders from 25 states and the District of Columbia.


The letter urged the Senate to “pass the strongest possible climate legislation that recognizes the needs and burdens of low-income and working families in the United States and around the world.”


Regrettably, the “Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act” did not receive last June the necessary three-fifths majority vote needed to bring it to a vote. The effort failed.


The nation’s congressional attention is drawn again to a climate-change bill, one that we must now pass.


Send an e-mail, make a call or write a letter to your representatives, encouraging them to support “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.” For contact information for your congressional representative, click here.


Robert Parham is executive editor of and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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