Over 40 evangelical leaders wrote a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, expressing their support for Secretary of Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt.
The leaders said in the letter that Pruitt is not a climate change 'denialist,' as claimed in several media reports. They noted that in his comments on climate change science, he had just said that the "debate is far from settled."
Pruitt, an evangelical Christian and a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma, is currently serving as the Attorney General of Oklahoma.
The open letter was signed by prominent evangelical pastors including Greg Laurie, Ronnie Floyd, Steve Gaines, Jim Henry, Johnny Hunt, James Merritt, and Bryant Wright. Other leaders from various Baptist affiliations also signed the document.
"We do not deny the existence of climate change nor the urgency of this concern. We affirm an ongoing debate on the proper balance between the unleashing of human enterprise and the protection of creation. We call for justice, righteousness, and compassion in every dimension of our national life, including our government. We believe that Attorney General Pruitt has been misrepresented as denying 'settled science,' when he has actually called for a continuing debate. This is in the very best tradition of science," the letter said.
Environmental activists have criticized Pruitt as he has sued the EPA Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States rule.
"Scott Pruitt running the EPA is like the fox guarding the henhouse," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.
"Time and again, he has fought to pad the profits of Big Polluters at the expense of public health," Karpinski continued.
However, the letter from evangelicals said that though human beings are entrusted with taking care of the environment, activities that propel sustenance must not be restricted.
"Every realm of human activity comes with the responsibility to be good stewards of all that is entrusted to us -- and so much has been entrusted. We are thankful for the progress made in respecting creation, advancing a proper environmentalism, and affirming this stewardship. We pray for every nation to enjoy clean air, clean water, and all things that lead to the flourishing of creation," the letter said. "At the same time, we reject any ideology that sees human beings as a blight upon the planet and would harm human flourishing by restricting or preventing the rightful use and enjoyment of creation."
Pruitt, after his nomination, said that he will work to protect the environment and remove excess regulations that hurt the businesses.
"The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses," Pruitt said in a statement.