12/01/2010 04:52 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Religious Rhapsody: The National Council of Churches

Give me that old time religion when it comes to protection of the environment. Religious organizations are increasingly joining the fray in support of regulations to combat global warming, clean up pollution, and preserve natural resources.

What about separation of church and state, you ask? That Constitutional directive requires that the formal practice of religion be kept distinct from the physical act of governing. It does not bar the application of religious-derived moral principles in decision-making. These principles are the prism through which politicians should, and often do, ultimately weigh the facts and public policy considerations to reach a decision. The moral principles are not the decisions themselves. That is another way of saying that taking one's cue from religious values is in no way substituting religious tenets for the law of the land.

Such inappropriate substitution has been pursued by a faction of Evangelical Christians who believe the Earth's destruction is a precondition to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and thus is a handy justification for plundering natural resources without regret. Fortunately, the separation of church and state has held firm against that renegade interpretation materializing into actual policy.

Even better news is the dominant view throughout the religious world that we are stewards of God's creation -- i.e. the rich biodiversity of Earth. That mentality is producing cadres of activist theologians to counter global warming deniers and environmental regulation foes seeking to use religion to block progressive environmental reforms. These environmental heretics view religion's message as an affirmation of an ideology that downgrades the importance of environmental protection by separating God from nature, and subordinating publican health to private profit.

So while anti-environmental critics in Congress dispute that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and challenge the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the green house gas, the influential National Council of Churches has risen to the defense. The Council's 56 religious denominations and faith-based organizations have sent a letter to the U.S. Senate warning that "any attempt to undermine the Clean Air Act [by banning the EPA from regulating green house gas emissions] damages efforts to shift to a sustainable energy future, and inevitably will impact the right of all God's children to live in a healthy world. Congress should instead focus its efforts on passing comprehensive climate legislation and national energy policy as a means to ensure a just and sustainable future for God's Creation."

The Council is right on the mark. We are all ethically bound to be stewards of the Earth. If the exercise of that religious-driven principle permeates the operation of government, so be it.

Edward Flattaus fourth book Green Morality is now available.