Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Could Pruitt's religious beliefs shape EPA policy?

Scott Pruitt, center, prays at his church in Broken Arrow, Okla.
(First Baptist Church Facebook page photo via E&E News)
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is famously skeptical of climate change; Niina Heikkinen of Environment & Energy News recently explored whether Pruitt's religious beliefs might help shape his attitude toward his work. She spoke with his pastor, Nick Garland, of the First Baptist Church in Pruitt’s home of Broken Arrow, Okla. Garland said Pruitt, a deacon who taught Sunday School, “came with deep, deep convictions. His Christian training and strength has always been significant. . . . He's not a wild-eyed weirdo. There are some weird ducks out there. Scott is a great student; he doesn't do anything on hearsay.”

Pruitt is a trustee of fundamentalist-run Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Louisville, in his native state. The Southern Baptist Convention places great importance on the virtues of both human beings' stewardship of the earth and their dominion over it, Heikkinen says in an Environment & Energy News video interview. That may pose conflict, especially on a political level. Stewardship is the idea that God wants people to take care of the earth and be responsible for what is done to it. Dominion emphasizes that God has granted man control over the earth and everything on it, Heikkinen says, “so that gives a little bit more leeway, in a way, to act differently, to, for example, maybe engage in hydraulic fracturing because you are using the resources of the earth to benefit people.”

Pruitt attended three Bible study sessions in March run by Capitol Ministries, whose president is more fundamentalist than the SBC and issued a supplemental reading that strongly stressed a dominionist attitude. "EPA did not respond to numerous requests for comment," Heikkenen reports. "Requests for Pruitt's schedules past March 31 have not yet been returned."

In the video, Heikkinen shies away from saying that this admittedly circumstantial evidence describes Pruitt's feelings: "I haven't spoken to Mr. Pruitt about his beliefs, and so I'd be hesitant to say exactly how his religion may play into it. But people who I spoke to for this article were saying that, you know, if someone really strongly holds this idea of dominion, then you might have this idea that you have authority to use the earth . . .  instead of focusing on more of the stewardship side. There's also this idea that if God is in control and has a divine plan for the planet, that there isn't really a need to act as a person because God has already preordained what will happen."

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