February 2, 1996 in Nation/World

Chenoweth: Green Creed Is ‘Holy War’ Lawmaker Calls Environmentalism A Religion That Threatens Constitution, Undermines Society

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A new religion called environmentalism is being forced upon America by the Clinton administration, threatening the Constitution and undermining society, U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth says.

The Idaho Republican took to the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday night to declare that “there is increasing evidence of a government-sponsored religion in America. This religion, a cloudy mixture of new-age mysticism, Native American folklore, and primitive Earth worship, (Pantheism) is being promoted and enforced by the Clinton administration in violation of our rights and freedoms.”

It has meant that the federal government is waging “an all-out holy war against the rancher,” Chenoweth said.

She reeled off pages of examples of the alleged religious incursion by people who want to reintroduce wolves and smother the working man with onerous regulation in the name of natural resource management.

Her critics said this is final proof Chenoweth is off kilter. “I think we can now say what everybody has been quietly thinking for many months - that Helen Chenoweth is a kook and a certified nut case,” said Mike Casey of the Environmental Information Center in Washington.

“Whether it’s black helicopters, one-world conspiracy, or, (now) state-sponsored religion, she comes up with these paranoid schemes.

“I work in an environmental group, I was born and raised a Catholic and I remain a Catholic,” Casey said. “I don’t know where she came up with this.”

Chenoweth delivered the speech after the House had finished its main business for the day, during a time commonly called “special orders.” That typically is a time where lawmakers give speeches to the empty chamber for the benefit of national cable television cameras that feed CSPAN.

Characterizing environmentalism as religion is no scheme Chenoweth dreamed up, said Khris Bershers, Chenoweth’s press secretary. Instead, Chenoweth was responding to a speech by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

Babbitt has decided environmentalism is a religion, Bershers said, and Chenoweth objects.

“Mr. Babbitt has made it clear that environmentalism - the religion - is driving this nation’s regulatory scheme,” Chenoweth said in her speech. “This is a violation of the establishment clause of the Constitution. It smothers our values and threatens our liberties.”

Chenoweth staff point to places in Babbitt’s speech where he said “children are expressing the moral and spiritual imperative that there may be a higher purpose inherent in creation, demanding our respect and our stewardship quite apart from whether a particular species is or ever will be of material use to mankind.”

Babbitt talks of a spiritual journey, led by a Hopi friend, and of Christianity and creation. He ends by saying that “religious values remain at the heart of the Endangered Species Act, that they make themselves manifest through the green eyes of the grey wolf, through the call of the whooping crane, through the splash of the Pacific salmon, through the voices of America’s children.”

To which Chenoweth replied in her speech, “environmentalism need not be a religion. It could - and should - be based on science and logic and aimed at secular goals.”

“The fact that this moral philosophy makes villains of hard-working, productive citizens makes it repugnant to American values,” she said.

Ron Riley, a Coeur d’Alene businessman and Chenoweth supporter, said Thursday night that Chenoweth generally is on the right track with environmental issues. He wasn’t familiar with her Wednesday speech, however, and didn’t want to comment on it specifically.

But, “I like most of what Helen does,” Riley said. “I do think there are certain areas we’ve gone overboard” with things like environmental regulation and bureaucracy.

Chenoweth has a lot of spunk, is smart and attractive, and is part of a team “that definitely will have an impact,” he said.

, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition

Cut in the Spokane edition

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