To Green Fundamentalists, Earth Is a Close Second

By Hanson, Gayle M. B. | Insight on the News, September 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

To Green Fundamentalists, Earth Is a Close Second


Hanson, Gayle M. B., Insight on the News


Liberal Democrats are attempting to get religious conservatives to join environmentalist causes -- what one terms the 'Noah's Ark' of the nineties. They're coming armed with much more than Scripture.

Rep. Richard Pombo, a California Republican, expected a rough ride this year when he unsuccessfully fought to roll back the the Endangered Species Act. He knew from the outset that the big-buck corporate environmental organizations would bring out their heaviest guns to protect the single piece of legislation they hold most sacred. But little did Pombo expect that he'd end up being damned by a group of self-styled conservative Christians who call themselves the Evangelical Environmental Network, or KEN.

"People in their arrogance are destroying God's creation, yet Congress and special interests are trying to sink the Noah's Ark of our day -- the Endangered Species Act," said Calvin B. DeWitt, cofounder of KEN, when the group launched its "million-dollar" campaign to halt Pombo's legislation.

But if the ecopastors have taken a vow to protect the Earth, they certainly haven't taken a vow of poverty. DeWitt and KEN launched their campaign from a suite of rooms at Washington's elegant Willard Intercontinental Hotel. There, ensconced in luxurious surroundings, they rolled out an honest-to-goodness Western cougar named Maverick, who stars in their professionally produced television public-service announcement. Although Western cougars have yet to appear on the endangered species list, and maul and eat an occasional hiker, Maverick has made appearances on David Letterman, Larry King Live and Good Morning America.

How a group of religious conservatives came to enlist the services of such a notable fat cat could be attributed to God's will, but it's a safer bet that it was the work of Fenton Communications, the Washington-based public-relations firm hired to launch the KEN campaign. The company first came to public attention when it orchestrated the Alar scare, which decimated the nation's apple growers several years back, before being discredited as a phony

"They're a front group for Clinton/Gore," Mike Hardiman, a spokesman for Pombo, tells Insight. "The Environmental Evangelical Network is directly linked to the Environmental Information Center, which is staffed by Democrats and funded by some of the largest left-wing foundations in the country."

Loosely organized under the umbrella of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and closely aligned with the Environmental Information Center, or EIC, KEN claims to be a grassroots organization of religious figures concerned about the environment. Indeed, its advisory council includes members of the Christian College Coalition and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. However, despite their high-mindedness, both the KEN and the EIC refuse to discuss their funding sources. And neither organization responded to Insight's inquiries regarding how and where they get their money A look at the masthead of EIC reveals representatives from both the Rockefeller Family Fund and Pew Charitable [Lust, two of the largest financiers of the environmental movement including Friends of the Earth and the Wilderness Society.

If that weren't enough to confirm the nature of the group, heading up the EIC is none other than Philip E. Clapp, who has spent more than a decade in Washington working for liberal environmental groups including Common Cause and Clean Water Action. He also was on the steering committee of Environmentalists for Clinton/Gore. Handling the media for the EIC is Arlie Schardt, the former executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund and press secretary for Gore's unsuccessful 1988 presidential campaign.

The alliance between the EIC and KEN is being closely watched by many in the politically conservative property-rights movement, who fear that subversion of the nation's churches is the next opportunity for corporate environmentalists to advance their cause. …

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