News Articles

Letter asks NAE to rethink ‘green’ activism

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An open letter from Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and more than 20 other Christian leaders encourages the board of the National Association of Evangelicals to rein in Richard Cizik, the association’s outspoken vice president for governmental relations in Washington, D.C., for his provocative statements on global warming and population control.

Sent March 1 to Roy Taylor, chairman of the NAE’s board and a minister with the Presbyterian Church in America, the letter from Dobson and others claims that Cizik has engaged in a “relentless campaign” in which he puts forth “his own political opinions as scientific fact.” Cizik, the letter also says, “regularly speaks without authorization for the entire organization” about an issue on which there is no consensus.

“The existence of global warming and its implications for mankind is a subject of heated controversy throughout the world,” the letter from Dobson and the other leaders says. “It does appear that the earth is warming, but the disagreement focuses on why it might be happening and what should be done about it. We believe it is unwise for an NAE officer to assert conclusively that those questions have been answered, or that the membership as a whole has taken a position on the matter. Furthermore, we believe the NAE lacks the expertise to settle the controversy, and that the issue should be addressed scientifically and not theologically.

“The liberal media has given wide coverage to Cizik’s views and has characterized them as being representative of the NAE member organizations,” the letter continues. “We are not aware of any evidence to support that assumption. More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children. In their place has come a preoccupation with climate concerns that extend beyond the NAE’s mandate and its own statement of purpose.”

The NAE’s board at its bi-annual board meeting in Minneapolis March 9 is expected to address complaints lodged against Cizik.

Jerald Walz, vice president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and an NAE board member, said in an IRD news release March 7 that Cizik’s statements on global warming and other controversial political issues are the most pressing problems facing the board.

“Richard Cizik continues to step outside the approved policy areas of the NAE,” Walz said in the news release. “Cizik using his public position has made statements that exceed the NAE’s goals. Cizik has claimed that global warming is real. Cizik has also used his NAE title in endorsing a petition against torture that alleges that the practice ‘is condemned in word but allowed in deed’ by the Bush administration. Yet the same petition makes no mention of torture being practiced by any country other than the United States. Similarly, Cizik has backed the Evangelicals for Darfur petition organized by the ‘progressive’ Christian Sojourners group. That petition targets President Bush, as if he were the main obstacle blocking humanitarian intervention to stop the Darfur genocide.”

Cizik did not return calls from Baptist Press for this story.

At its previous meeting, the NAE executive board passed a motion directing “NAE staff to stand by and not exceed in any fashion our approved and adopted statements concerning the environment contained within the Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.” Having continued to do so, Cizik may have placed himself in jeopardy.

In a June 2006 interview with Fast Company, according to the letter to the NAE, Cizik said proponents of global warming in the evangelical movement were “the future” while “the old guard is reaching up to grasp its authority back, like a horror movie where a hand comes out of the grave.” Signatories to the letter took exception with language that likened the conservative movement to a “rotting corpse that will not die.”

And in a speech at the World Bank in May 2006, the letter claimed, Cizik said evangelicals should address the issue of population control in addition to global warming. He also reportedly boasted that he had not yet been dismissed for engaging in environmental activism.

“I’ve touched the third rail but still have a job. And I’ll still have a job right after my talk here today. But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch. We need to confront population control and we can -– we’re not Roman Catholics, after all, but it’s too hot to handle now,” Cizik told the World Bank.

The letter to the NAE board asked how Cizik proposed to address the issue. “We ask, how is population control going to be achieved,” the letter states, “if not by promoting abortion, the distribution of condoms to the young, and, even by infanticide in China and elsewhere? Is this where Richard Cizik would lead us?”

Cizik has devoted much of his time recently to advocating environmental change. Last year, he joined some evangelicals, such as Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, and Leith Anderson, current president of the NAE, in signing the first draft of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI).

Members of the NAE’s board, however, refused to take a position on the issue and did not sign the statement. Dobson and others, including Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also rejected the statement because no scientific consensus had been reached on global warming.

Cizik’s signature did not appear on the second draft of the ECI. On National Public Radio in December, Cizik said he was told not to sign another draft by 25 evangelical leaders and that he had “spoken out of turn.” But that hasn’t stopped him from preaching green in the public square. In his discussions on global warming, Cizik has often cited Revelation 11:18, a verse that proclaims God will destroy those who destroy the earth.

Cizik said he was addressing the issue of global warming because he “had a conversion to the facts of climate change back in 2002 … not unlike a Christian conversion to Christ.”

“I decided to proclaim the new truth as I understood it,” Cizik said on NPR. “It’s a very biblical message and we’ve attempted to find a biblical idiom, if you will, to communicate it.”

Signatories to the Dobson letter also included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Don Wildmon, chairman of the board for the American Family Association; Gary Bauer, president of Coalitions for America; and Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International. None of the men who signed the letter are members of the NAE, but have organizations that “interface with it regularly and consider it to be an important institution in today’s Christian culture,” the letter says.

“We implore the NAE board to ensure that Mr. Cizik faithfully represents the policies and commitments of the organization, including its defense of traditional values. If he cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues, then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE,” the letter to the NAE board says.

    About the Author

  • Gregory Tomlin