Green and Godly Grow in Ranks

Recently, the traditionally crunchy Sierra Club has been trying to tap the potency of this link by sending Griffin to give presentations to religious groups and guest speak on conservative programs such as Oliver North's syndicated radio show.

Griffin says people are often taken aback by what they hear.

"Many come up to me afterwards and say, 'I have a whole new impression of the Sierra Club. I'm not used to seeing a Christian speak on these issues,'" she said. "My response is 'Get used to it.' There are a lot of walls coming down and that's a good thing."

While the Sierra Club seeks to broaden its identity to include more of the country's religious communities, some religious groups are increasing their efforts to recruit more of their own toward environmental causes. In October, the National Association of Evangelicals' leader, Ted Haggard, adopted an "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," which stressed every Christian's duty to care for the planet.

"We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the Earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part," the group's statement reads.

Last fall, the evangelical magazine Christianity Today urged its readers to support steps toward protecting the planet. Meanwhile, Jim Ball, of the Evangelical Environmental Network, who became well-known in 2002 for his "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign against SUVs, has joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council in a campaign to improve energy conservation.

Environmental Republicans: 'Where Have You Been?'

Robert Perks of the NRDC says his group and Ball's are certainly "not lockstep on every issue," but rather both realized they would have more impact if they joined voices. Perks says while such alliances might have been unheard of in the past, the urgency of environmental concerns under the current administration is forcing a broadened environmental movement.

He and others in the environmental movement have argued the Bush administration has weakened a number of regulations protecting the planet, from easing carbon dioxide and mercury control requirements under a proposed cap and trade system to supporting oil drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge.

"It's the issues that are bringing groups together," Perks said. "They're of concern to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons and now they are coalescing into a perfect storm."

Martha Marks, president of the 10-year-old group Republicans for Environmental Protection, is pleased to see a more organized effort by those on the religious right to support environmental causes. Her group has never shunned the term environmentalist and has stayed clear of religious messages in its advocacy work. Still, she says she welcomes any new voices to the cause, particularly those belonging to a group whom many credit with boosting re-election efforts of President Bush.

"We want to get back to the days when environmentalism was a bipartisan issue that both sides cared about," she said. "So hearing new voices from the religious right on these issues is welcome news to us. My only question is, where have you been?"

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