On Religious Freedom and Climate Change

by Peter MacLachlan, Hamilton, Montana

We have seen increasingly over the past few decades, a wide-spread outcry against the connection between church and state. As stated in the First Amendment, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ the last part being at the heart of the debate. The meaning of the First Amendment has been endlessly discussed and it’s not my intention to discuss it further – only to add a wrinkle.

I’m not sure if we have a standard in place for the definition of religion, stating what qualifies it. But we have seen, over the past several years, a body of thought, ideas and data (some would include principles) of a belief system that might qualify as religion – that has been, in the past few months dramatically displayed not only on this opinion page, but in the state legislature as well.

If the bill HJ-10, put forward in the latest session of the legislature, authored by Rep. Doug Coffin (HD-93 Missoula) had become law, it would have resolved:

  1. that anthropogenic or human-made climate change is scientifically valid and represents scientific fact;
  2. understands that anthropogenic climate change, manifesting as major changes in weather patterns in North America, including Montana, has the potential to cause major socioeconomic and demographic dislocations in Montana that can be construed as an ecological threat;
  3. compels state government and its affiliated agencies, with due consideration of Montana’s economic heritage and preservation of employment traditions, to employ, invent, and apply new technologies commensurate with the conservation of resources in a manner that mitigates and adapts to climate change to the best of our ability; and
  4. suggests that educators include anthropogenic climate change science in their science education curricula. (the above conditions 1-4 were taken directly from the bill )

The following was taken from the rebuttal of HJ-10 by Dr. Edwin X Berry, climate scientist:

We are not saying humans have no effect on climate. We are saying the human effect is not significant enough to justify government intervention.

We are also saying it is vital to America and Montana to make our climate science free to be a true science. HJ-10 will stop climate science progress and put in its place a monstrous, government-controlled, global warming religion.

The most recent science concludes that doubling CO2 will cause from 0.5 to 1.0 Celsius increase in global temperature but natural cycles overwhelm this human effect.

Natural cycles indicate the Earth will enter a significant cooling for the next 40 to 60 years. This is not the time to be concerned about our CO2 emissions. We need to build reliable, low-cost energy sources so we can prepare for any eventuality, including global cooling.

HJ-10 died in standing committee on April 24, 2013.

The recent Bitterroot Star opinion page letter by Van P. Keele of Hamilton (July 24, 2013) is an embarrassing example of spreading anti-Science. If anything can be described as global-warming religious dogma – this is it.

And so my question would be – if the content of HJ-10 became law at some point, would it qualify as a legal conflict between church and state? Hopefully we won’t have to leave it up to the Supreme Court to decide.


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