How to characterize doctrine

vials2There’s an interesting story coming out of Wisconsin about a woman who was fired from her job as a Roman Catholic school teacher because she conceived her children using in vitro fertilization.

The method of conception involves removing eggs from the woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm. The main complication of the method is the frequency of multiple births. This is because of the practice of creating many embryos and passing several of the “best” of them into the uterus to improve the chances of implantation. Leftover embryos are frozen for future use or discarded. Millions of embryos have been discarded or frozen by couples who use in vitro fertilization.

Let’s look at the way Susan Squires, a reporter for the Appleton Post-Crescent, handled explaining Roman Catholic opposition to the practice after a generous explanation of the woman’s position:

The church’s position is spelled out in “Donum Vitae,” a 1987 church instruction on “respect for human life in its origin and the dignity of procreation.” The document — Latin for “Gift of Life” — was written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

It teaches that in-vitro fertilization is immoral. By employing medical technology to commingle her eggs with her husband’s sperm, Romenesko had violated two clauses in her teaching contract: to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, and to act and teach in accordance with Catholic doctrine and the church’s moral and social teachings. . . .

Simply put, in-vitro fertilization is the process of extracting eggs from a woman’s ovaries, fertilizing them with a man’s sperm, choosing the most promising cell clusters and injecting several into the mother’s uterus. Clinics typically freeze “extra” embryos, which the parents may use later, discard or donate.

The church, which teaches that life begins at conception, objects to the procedure on several grounds. First, destroying leftover embryos is tantamount to abortion in the eyes of the church, as is “selective reduction” — the elimination of some implanted embryos to avert multiple pregnancies.

Secondly, it usually requires male masturbation to harvest sperm, which the church holds immoral.

Finally, according to the Donum Vitae, “The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.”

Not bad, eh? The explanation is placed midway through the story and is a rather fair explanation of the church’s position on human life issues. Now let’s look at the way the Associated Press handled it:

In vitro fertilization involves extracting eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm in a laboratory dish or test tube. The fertilized eggs are implanted into the woman’s uterus.

Catholic teaching holds that the procedure is morally wrong because it replaces the “natural” conjugal union between husband and wife and often results in destruction of embryos.

Even though [attorney James C.] Jones said the couple used their own eggs and sperm and none of the embryos were destroyed in the process, the church forbids such donations and condemns all forms of experimentation on human embryos.

The AP characterization just seems lacking on so many levels. It’s not that anything it says is wrong, just that it gives short shrift to a complex theological issue. You can almost see the wave of the hand as the reporter skirts from the news hook about the woman’s firing onto descriptions of the cute twins she gave birth to last year.

test tube babyI noticed another difference between the two reports. While Squires speaks with two Catholic theologians who wonder whether the school overreacted, she shares their concerns with the principal and includes his response. Compare that approach with how the AP handled it:

The in vitro fertilization issue was first highlighted for Catholics in “Donum Vitae,” a 1987 church instruction written by the cabinet of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on “respect for human life in its origin and the dignity of procreation.”

Mark Johnson, who teaches moral theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said the 1987 document was the first serious official church writing on the subject, and modifications could be possible.

“This is brand spanking new stuff in the life of a church that is 2,000 years old,” Johnson said, noting that the Vatican now is considering allowing the use of condoms to help battle AIDS in Africa despite its longtime opposition to contraceptive devices.

The reporter then went back to more details about the woman who had been fired. We frequently think that national reporters are better at handling nuance and difficult situations, but I think the local reporter does better in this case. Squires looked at an explosive and controversial issue with a deft hand, treating all of her subjects fairly.

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Science explains everything

ben crosses the lineI remember hearing a joke about a Sunday school teacher who was telling her young students about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. This teacher was more learned than the average Sunday school teacher so she explained that the Moses hadn’t miraculously parted the water to enable the crossing. Rather, the sea was actually very shallow — only a couple of inches or feet deep, in fact. So while God did rescue his people, he didn’t use supernatural means.

“That’s amazing!” said Billy, one of her young charges.

The teacher explained that God was amazing but that this crossing hadn’t been such an amazing feat. In fact, Red Sea was a mistranslation. It was a sea of reeds. A Reed Sea. And so the Israelites only had to cross a very shallow sea.

“Wow! That’s super-amazing!” said Billy.

Exasperated, the teacher asked him what was so amazing about the Israelites traversing the Reed Sea.

“That the entire Egyptian army drowned in a few inches of water!”

I thought of that joke when I read the news today that a scientist thinks the biblical account of Jesus walking on the water has a scientific explanation. Here’s how the New York Times put it:

It was a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples were out in a boat, battling a contrary wind, when they saw Jesus approaching, as if a spirit. “And he went up to them into the ship; and the wind ceased,” it is written in Mark 6:51. “And they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.”

Doron Nof also wondered, in a measured, scientific way. A professor of oceanography at Florida State University, he conducted an inquiry and found what might be a natural explanation: ice.

Writing in The Journal of Paleolimnology, Dr. Nof and his colleagues point out that unusual freezing processes probably occurred in the region in the last 12,000 years, icing over parts of freshwater Galilee. This has not happened in recent history, but there were much colder stretches 1,500 to 2,500 years ago. . . .

From a distance, the scientists suggested, a person on the ice might appear to be walking on water, particularly if it had just rained and left a smoothed-out watery coating on the ice.

Not to sound like Billy, but that is amazing that a boat could be battling rough seas at the same time Jesus was walking on ice nearby. Not to mention that this event occurred immediately after Jesus fed thousands with the few loaves and fishes. And remember what the Bible says about that group? That Jesus told them to recline on the “green grass”? Sounds like winter.

Following on the heels of the prayer study, it’s interesting to see so much media coverage of scientific attempts to explain either supernatural occurrences or issues of spirituality. It’s also interesting to contrast with the media treatment of religious explanations of scientific phenomena.

When any group questions or raises concerns with the current scientific explanation for a given issue, it rarely if ever gets to just tell its side of the story without rebuttal. And that’s only fair and right. But when some scientist comes up with an outlandish explanation debunking Christ’s power, it would be nice if reporters would seek a response from other scientists or followers of Jesus who could explain the significance of the story.

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Maybe God only answers the prayers of Methodists

PrayingA $2.4 million study on the effect of intercessory prayer came out last week and received a bunch of coverage. Researchers studying 1,800 heart-bypass patients at three hospitals found that intercessory prayer by strangers has no effect on the health of the person being prayed for. They also found that people fared worse — in the short-term at least — if they knew they were being prayed for.

But the study was a bit more complex than that. Over 3,000 patients were asked to take part in the study and over 1,800 agreed. Patients were randomly divided into three groups:

• people who were prayed for but were told they may or may not be prayed for

• people who were not prayed for but told they may or may not be prayed for

• patients who were prayed for and told they would be prayed for.

Some of the ways this study was done well (and it should have been for $2.4 million!) were that patients were randomly assigned, doctors were not told what group the patients were assigned to, the sample size was large and data collected about the participants showed there weren’t big differences across the three groups.

But there were problems, too. Patients may or may not have been prayed for by people who cared about them and knew them. The study didn’t capture that information — instead it farmed out first names and the first letter of last names to strangers in three different congregations (two Catholic and one Protestant). God had only 14 days to work healing. Or, rather, congregants only prayed for the patients for 14 days. My congregation prays for people as long as they are in need of prayer. In some cases, we have been praying for people for years. It never occurred to us that this meant intercessory prayer was failing!

Stories were sort of all over the map, but most reporters did a good job of characterizing the study. Here’s Michael Conlon of Reuters:

A study of more than 1,800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery has failed to show that prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact, researchers said on Thursday.

And here is Rob Stein in the Washington Post:

Praying for other people to recover from an illness is ineffective, according to the largest, best-designed study to examine the power of prayer to heal strangers at a distance.

It’s just interesting to see two reporters in action. The first lead emphasizes the manufactured aspect of the prayers. While the second lead shows the study looked at prayer by strangers, it makes it seem like the study proves all prayer is ineffective — which is much more broad than the study itself purports.

Anyway, I know the unemployed, sick and dying at my church will still be prayed for. Speaking of lead paragraphs, this satirical one made me laugh:

A team of scientists today ended a 10-year study on the so-called “power of prayer” by concluding that God cannot be manipulated by humans, not even by scientists with a $2.4 million research grant.

Heh.

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Swallowing bitter pills

ru486newsprintThe FDA announced this week that another two women who had undergone abortions using pills had died. It is important for reporters to be very specific about what is and is not known about life and death issues such as these, and many reporters did a fine job. But there was one component that was sorely lacking. Let’s look at this sample coverage from Andrew Bridges with Associated Press:

Two more women have died after using the abortion pill RU-486, federal health regulators said Friday, in warning doctors to watch for a rare but deadly infection implicated in earlier deaths.

At least seven U.S. women have died after taking the pill, sold since 2000. The Food and Drug Administration cannot prove the drug was to blame in any of the cases.

This information is certainly helpful, but I was thinking back to a story I read in December that had shocked me. Not because the news was so surprising so much as bizarrely underreported. Here’s Salynn Boyles of WebMD in an article published by Fox:

The FDA received reports of 607 adverse events involving the abortion drug RU-486 over a four-year period, it was reported this week.

The adverse events included five reported deaths and 68 cases of severe bleeding that required transfusions.

Late last month, federal officials confirmed that five women who died of toxic shock syndrome within a week of taking the drug to induce abortions had the same rare bacterial infection.

Now, seven deaths provides some context, certainly. But 68 cases of severe bleeding that required blood transfusions? And 607 adverse events? Ay yay yay! Without debating the morality of abortion, why would reporters hide this? If you or a woman you knew were considering abortion — whether you agreed with her thinking or not — wouldn’t you want to share information like this with her? Why, in a story about the dangers of an abortion pill, would you not mention that you may be facing a blood transfusion if you take the pill? Yes, these numbers are comparatively small relative to the half-million women who have used pills to end pregnancies, but that doesn’t excuse hiding them.

Anyway, most outlets tried to push the story forward by looking at Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it was changing the way it administered the drug. Four of the seven women who died did so after receiving their abortion pills from Planned Parenthood. Apparently the FDA and Planned Parenthood have been battling for a while over the way Planned Parenthood directs patients to take the drug. The New York TimesGardiner Harris explains:

When Mifeprex was first approved by the agency in 2000, the standard regimen was to give the drug in a doctor’s office followed two days later by an oral dose of a different drug, misoprostol, also in a doctor’s office. Women expelled the fetus over the following days or weeks in a process that mimicked a miscarriage. The procedure must begin within 49 days of conception.

Soon after Mifeprex’s approval, most Planned Parenthood doctors switched to a different regimen, instructing women to insert misoprostol vaginally at home two to three days after taking Mifeprex. Studies of the new regimen showed that it was effective, and it allowed women to take lower doses of misoprostol. It also meant fewer office visits for Planned Parenthood.

But this regimen was not approved by the drug agency. It is not unusual for doctors to use drugs differently from how they are officially approved. But as reports of deaths among women undergoing the procedure trickled into the F.D.A., government officials issued stern warnings that doctors should stick to the approved regimen.

Until Friday, Planned Parenthood had rejected those warnings.

bitter pill 01I just want to point out this one device author Gardiner Harris used when writing about Planned Parenthood. He says that Planned Parenthood is using a regimen not approved by the FDA. Then he says that it’s not uncommon for doctors to deviate from approved uses. That is most certainly true. It’s also remarkably generous for him to include in a story about two women’s deaths. Especially since those deaths followed medical consultations with Planned Parenthood that included instructions contrary to what the FDA approved for an extremely controversial and dangerous drug. I think it’s good that he mentioned it, so I’m not criticizing him. But it’s good to think about whether all sources get this treatment.

To draw a comparison, let’s say that seven men from around the country all died after hunting trips. The only thing they had in common was that they used the same make and model of gun, which had just been put on the market. Would we expect most reporters to put the best construction on the gun manufacturer? I don’t know.

Reporters, and most of us are guilty of this whether we’re reporters or not, tend to put the best construction on those with whom we agree while attacking the motivations or practices of those with whom we disagree. If you want to write an attack piece, putting the worst construction on one group’s actions — and the best construction on their opponents — is the easiest way to do it. It’s also unethical and fails to provide a news service to readers. Generously explaining everybody’s side is more difficult but it ends up providing a better — albeit much more complex — story.

In the meantime, someone should probably dig a bit more into all these complications from abortion pills, not just the deaths.

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Every body is religious

05328151425 eyesA few years ago I was in Czech Republic to witness the baptism of a dear friend. We went to Kutna Hora, home to the beautiful Sv. Barbory (Saint Barbara) Cathedral, one of the most famous Gothic churches in Europe. From Jan Svankmajer’s film, I knew of an ossuary nearby that I wanted to visit. Hana repeatedly told me that I shouldn’t go, but I insisted.

She was probably right. A chapel made out of creative arrangements of the bones of 40,000 humans is, it seems, not for the weak. Finding out that it was made in the late 19th century, instead of 500 years earlier, only made it worse. It provoked in me a deeper appreciation for more private cemeteries and resting places.

I thought of this experience when reading Denver Post writer Eric Gorski’s interesting piece on an exhibition of human bodies that is touring the country. I enjoy reading Gorski because he takes the time to understand the nuances of religious issues. So many religion reporters think that they can explain complex religious issues by talking to people on opposite sides of an issue. Gorski tries to explain issues by differentiating seemingly similar views.

He looks at an exhibition in which corpses have their skin removed to show muscles and nerves. The corpses are put in bizarre positions, too, like swinging a baseball bat:

The exhibit raises questions about the existence of a creator, when life begins and the afterlife. Displaying actual cadavers — a sight usually reserved for medical students — also raises ethical and religious issues.

He talks to various religious leaders about their concerns, finding most clerics to be generally supportive. However, two of his Muslim sources disagree about whether the exhibit is okay. I found the following quote from the executive director of the Colorado Southern Baptist General Convention to be very interesting:

“The body is a beautiful miracle — a major proof of the creator,” [Mark] Edlund said. “In a cadaver there is no soul, no spirit. I see no Christian ethics involved.”

bodyworksI am sure this is the view of Southern Baptists, but I just thought it was fascinating. Think of how the spread of Christianity — with its central belief in the resurrection of the body — led to major changes in the way people dealt with the human body after death. The early Christians would have universally disapproved of such treatment of the human form. They strenuously advocated burial of the human body — contrary to many customs of the time. Obviously things have changed drastically in Christianity — with many churches supporting the cremation that early Christians worked so hard to eradicate. I am certain that some scholars or religious leaders who represent the historic Christian position could have been found, but the wide variety of belief mentioned in Gorski’s piece was interesting. I also appreciated that he found out a bit about the religious views of the exhibit’s creator:

As for the man behind it all, [Dr. Gunther] von Hagens told Colorado reporters last week he was baptized a Protestant behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany and did not see the inside of a church for 17 years.

Von Hagens describes his belief system now as largely agnostic.

Does the master anatomist believe in an afterlife? Did souls once dwell in his ballet dancer, his soccer player, his man at leisure?

“I think my brain is not constructed to answer those questions,” he said.

Too many reporters would listen to an agnostic such as von Hagens and deem his religious views unworthy of mention. But it’s important when writing about one source’s religious motivation to seek out information about everyone’s religious motivation.

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Mormon genealogy and DNA

ldsdnaAccording to Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon was brought forth when God provided 22-year-old church founder Joseph Smith with special glasses and seer stones that enabled him to translate writings — from “Reformed Egyptian” — on golden tablets found in New York. Mormons believe these scriptures restored the church and left the rest of Christianity in apostasy.

The Book of Mormon has a compelling narrative about a tribe of Jews who sailed from Jerusalem to the Americas before the time of Christ and split into two factions. The Nephites were the good guys. In 1981, the word for them was officially changed from “white” to “pure.” The Lamanites received the “curse of blackness.” The Los Angeles Times provides the background:

According to the Book of Mormon, by 385 AD the dark-skinned Lamanites had wiped out other Hebrews. The Mormon church called the victors “the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” If the Lamanites returned to the church, their skin could once again become white.

This is not just a 19th-century teaching. Current Mormon president Gordon Hinckley has told Native Americans they are descended from one of the factions. The Times ran a story yesterday on DNA evidence that puts the story about the lost tribe of Israel in question.

From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.

“We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people,” said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. “It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God.”

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East.

“I’ve gone through stages,” he said. “Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness.”

My wonderful future in-laws are Mormon, and I have Mormon ancestors myself, so I’m always fascinated by tales of the Latter-day Saints. And this story is no exception. But it also provides fodder for thinking about how to treat the meeting of faith and science.

The headline of this piece is “Bedrock of a Faith is Jolted.” But as Slate‘s William Saletan quickly summarizes (with a bit of attitude), the Latter-day Saints have worked around the problem with ease:

DNA evidence is rattling Mormonism. The church converted millions of Latin Americans and Polynesians with its scriptural story that they came from a lost tribe of Israel. DNA says they came from Asia instead. Old Mormon argument: The scripture is literally true. New arguments: 1) DNA evidence is being twisted by enemies of the church. 2) Maybe the folks who came from the lost tribe were few, and their DNA was “swamped” by immigrants from Asia. Try falsifying that! 3) “The Book of Mormon will never be proved or disproved by science.” 4) We’re “willing to live in ambiguity.”

This DNA kerfuffle has been going on for years, long enough that I was wondering why the Times was covering it yesterday. The Latter-day Saints even put up a site for media specifically dealing with DNA and the Book of Mormon. I got the image above from a Mormon magazine article about the issue. One of the Mormon critics quoted in the Times piece published a book last year about the topic.

history of churchAnyway, Mormonism is a large and growing religion and the DNA evidence problem isn’t the only issue being dealt with from its scriptures:

For instance, the Mormon scriptures contain references to a seven-day week, domesticated horses, cows and sheep, silk, chariots and steel. None had been introduced in the Americas at the time of Christ.

But these issues have been discussed by Mormons for a very long time. Go to the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, a Mormon apologetic group, today and you can get the answer to this (declarative) question of the week:

The mention of windows that could be “dashed in pieces” in Ether 2:23 seems to be anachronistic, since glass windows were not invented until the late Middle Ages.

I really do think this is a fascinating story, but the notion that this is jolting the bedrock of the Mormon faith might be overstating it. I couldn’t find any recent coverage in Utah papers, for instance. However, Peggy Fletcher Stack, the Salt Lake Tribune‘s religion reporter, likely covered it years ago. It would have also been helpful if reporter William Lobdell interviewed outside critics of Mormonism instead of just Mormons and ex-Mormons (and Mormon scholar Jan Shipps). It would also be great to see a follow-up that explores specifically how the DNA story relates to Mormonism’s concern with geneology and lineage. Let us know if you see any coverage.

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What creationists look like

creation 2In his recent opinion in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board, Judge John Jones accused members of the Dover Area School Board of being closet Christian creationists. In fact, he more or less painted the entire Intelligent Design community as creationists. And I bring this up because one wonders what Jones and his bedfellows would call folks like Ken Ham, profiled yesterday in the Los Angeles Times.

The story is written by Stephanie Simon, who we’ve praised for her reporting on pregnancy issues. This is not written in as much of her trademark spare style, but she still permits her subjects to speak for themselves:

“Sometimes people will answer, ‘No, but you weren’t there either,’” Ham told them. “Then you say, ‘No, I wasn’t, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.’” He waved his Bible in the air.

“Who’s the only one who’s always been there?” Ham asked.

“God!” the boys and girls shouted.

“Who’s the only one who knows everything?”

“God!”

“So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?”

The children answered with a thundering: “God!”

A former high-school biology teacher, Ham travels the nation training children as young as 5 to challenge science orthodoxy. He doesn’t engage in the political and legal fights that have erupted over the teaching of evolution. His strategy is more subtle: He aims to give people who trust the biblical account of creation the confidence to defend their views — aggressively.

That, my friends, is what creationists look like. And reporters, and others, would do well to see the difference between those who advocate teaching the literal biblical account of creation in government schools . . . and those who think the complexity of the universe points to a designer.

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Tip: follow the money

Jesusbus2So evangelical leaders are front and center in a public relations campaign launched this week. Editors and reporters are giving the campaign heavy coverage because the evangelical leaders are surprising them by calling for reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Laurie Goodstein’s New York Times story yesterday hit the major points:

Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying “millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.”

Among signers of the statement, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

This is obviously a worthy news story, even if it is an orchestrated PR campaign (more on that later) and Goodstein writes a good account, even if it is lacking in explaining the religious motivations of both the the signers and those who oppose the effort. However, I find it interesting how news coverage of religious adherents is biased in favor of political action. If a religious group does something political — be it protesting cartoons published in Denmark or signing a petition for reduced carbon dioxide emissions — it is ensured heavy coverage. And this makes it seem like the groups have a large relative size and impact. But what about those religious adherents who are more focused on, well, religious notions of salvation, eternal life, doctrine and creeds? They simply aren’t noticed unless they engage in politics. Not that we haven’t discussed this gripe before . . .

In any case, the Chicago Tribune‘s Frank James covers the religious angle a bit more than Goodstein but struggles with accurately conveying evangelical views on the issue. Check this paragraph out, for instance:

But environmental issues have proved divisive within the body of believers who identify themselves as evangelicals. Some who believe the world is in the “end times,” with a return of Jesus imminent, have not seen the necessity of protecting the environment for the long term. Others, meanwhile, have taken the view espoused by the evangelicals who unveiled their campaign Wednesday, that humans were given dominion over the Earth with the responsibility to protect it.

Got that? You either believe Armageddon means environmental issues are meaningless or that God wants humans to protect the earth. Leaving aside the fact that I’m not sure many prominent evangelicals actually hold the first view (and he doesn’t name any who do), James surely doesn’t think he’s accurately conveyed the views of evangelicals.

Both stories quoted the Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network. I remembered his name from the What Would Jesus Drive? campaign of a few years ago. During research for my book on the interfaith movement, I found that the idea for the evangelical network came from non-evangelical interfaith environmentalist activists who strategically decided to reach out to the politically powerful group. The What Would Jesus Drive? campaign was run by Fenton Communications, which is also responsible for the Alar apple scare of the 1980s and, more recently, MoveOn.org advertisements. The Evangelical Environmental Network itself, which has many evangelical partners, is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which isn’t really known for funding evangelical efforts.

I haven’t done research on the Evangelical Climate Initiative, but it definitely has ties to the What Would Jesus Drive? campaign run by Fenton Communications. Hopefully some reporters covering this story will not just parrot the press releases being issued and will look deeper into the genesis of this campaign. And no matter what they find, following the money is always a good idea.

Update: Through a completely egregious error on my part, for which I have nothing but excuses, I missed the fact that Goodstein does mention the funding:

The Evangelical Climate Initiative, at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, is being supported by individuals and foundations, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Hewlett Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.

The initiative is one indication of a growing urgency about climate change among religious groups, said Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, a clearinghouse in Amherst, Mass., for environmental initiatives by religious groups.

Interfaith climate campaigns in 15 states are pressing for regional standards to reduce greenhouse gases, Mr. Gorman said. Jewish, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox leaders also have campaigns under way.

My earlier mention of Pew was with regard to the Evangelical Environmental Network. So it would be interesting to see how, exactly, the two groups are related. It would also be interesting to see what, if any, ties there are to the Tides Foundation and Fenton Communications. Precisely who is orchestrating this interfaith campaign?

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