Washington | One Southern Baptist is among President-elect Donald Trumps nominees for a top government post, but his confirmation may not come easy. That process—and the questioning of other cabinet positions of interest to evangelicals—is making the days ahead of Trump’s inauguration interesting and important.
Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has drawn praise from Southern Baptists despite charges by secular media outlets, environmentalists, and some clergy that his leadership could harm the environment.
Pruitt is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla. and a trustee for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The New York Times published an article calling Pruitt a “climate change denialist” and noted his participation in a 28-state lawsuit challenging some of the Obama administration’s carbon-emission regulations. Pruitt’s nomination faces strong opposition by Democrats in the U. S. Senate.
Pruitt “does not deny that there is a human impact on the climate,” Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary said, urging support of Pruitt. “He doesn’t deny what’s called now the reality of global warming or of climate change. He says that the debate is not settled and the degree and the extent of global warming is not yet fully known.”
A group of 48 evangelical leaders, mostly Southern Baptists, sent a letter to Trump calling Pruitt “well qualified to lead the Environmental Protection Agency” and deserving of “the full support of the United States Senate in his confirmation.”
“We do not deny the existence of climate change nor the urgency of this concern,” the letter states. “We affirm an ongoing debate on the proper balance between the unleashing of human enterprise and the protection of creation…We believe that Attorney General Pruitt has been misrepresented as denying ‘settled science,’ when he has actually called for a continuing debate.”
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative Methodist nominated by Trump to serve as U.S. Attorney General, is also facing opposition from Democrats who accuse him of being racist. But Sessions has received support from some African American clergy. “There is an attempt by some to demonize people and call them racist when there is actually no proof for it,” Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “Let me say clearly, Sen. Sessions is not a racist.”
USA Today reported the pastor said Sessions “worked to bankrupt the KKK in Alabama with a $7 million judgment” and helped to desegregate the state’s public school system.
Sessions was asked during his Senate confirmation hearings if he would respect the Supreme Court rulings that made abortion and same-sex marriage legal. Sessions said he believed the abortion ruling violated the constitution, however, “it is the law of the land, it has been settled for some time….I will respect it and follow it.”
On same-sex marriage he replied, “The Supreme Court has ruled on that, the dissents dissented vigorously, but it was 5-4 and…I will follow that decision.”
Religious reps at inauguration
Six clergy members have been asked to pray at Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20, showing the most diverse religious representation at such a ceremony in recent memory. On the dias will be
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Billy Graham’s son Franklin, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, and Pastor Paula White.
Graham wrote on his Facebook page, “It is a privilege to be asked to take part in the inauguration of the next President of the United States. I am very thankful that prayer and reading from God’s Holy Word will be a part of this important ceremony as the world watches. We need God’s blessing and favor on this nation and our new president.” The younger Graham prayed at the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush.
White is the second woman ever invited to pray at a presidential inauguration. Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, prayed at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will perform, but not without controversy. A member of the choir quit very publically, posting her decision on Facebook and citing issues of morality for her refusal to support Trump.
Following the inauguration, a Women’s March on Washington has been organized for Jan. 21. Other groups plan to host rallies and protests, including the annual pro-life rally that coincides with the anniversary of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
– With reporting from Baptist Press