Pubdate: Sat, 29 Jun 2002
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2002 The Washington Post Company
Note: Compiled by Bill Broadway


Drug Laws, Environmental Problems Among Denominations' Concerns

Religious organizations and watchdog groups recently have passed 
resolutions, written letters or issued statements on a variety of public 
policy issues. Here are some notable actions:

* The war on drugs: The Unitarian Universalist Association, at its General 
Assembly last weekend in Quebec City, passed a "statement of conscience" 
calling for the legalization of marijuana and the end to criminal penalties 
for most drug offenses.

The denomination, representing more than 1,000 congregations and 200,000 
members in the United States, declared: "We do not believe that drug use 
should be considered criminal behavior."

The Boston-based denomination said that "the consequences of the current 
drug war are cruel and counterproductive" and called for "alternatives that 
regard the reduction of harm as the appropriate standard by which to assess 
drug policies."

Specific proposals include selling, taxing and regulating marijuana in the 
same manner as alcohol; dropping criminal penalties for drug possession and 
use except for abusers who commit such crimes as assault, burglary or 
"impaired driving"; and making all drugs available by prescription.

* Coal-burning power plants: The Presbyterian Church (USA), at its annual 
General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, endorsed a call to clean 
up coal-burning power plants that were grandfathered by the Clean Air Act 
of 1990.

Believing that utility companies would retire their oldest and 
least-efficient units, Congress did not require the companies to install 
pollution controls at those facilities unless they were to be modernized, 
according to the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville.

Today, many of those plants are still in use and can pollute air up to 10 
times as much as newer coal-fired power plants, the center said.

Lynn Cameron, co-author of the Presbyterian resolution and mission leader 
for the Trinity Restoring Creation House Church in Harrisonburg, Va., said 
the denomination "believes more can and should be done to protect the air 
we all breathe."

* Environmental ethics: Leaders of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox 
churches in the United States issued a joint statement supporting a 
declaration on environmental ethics that was signed June 10 by Pope John 
Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

John Paul is head of more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide; Bartholomew 
is the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians.

"It is on the basis of our recognition that the world is created by God 
that we can discern an objective moral order within which to articulate a 
code of environmental ethics," John Paul and Bartholomew said. Society has 
been "making decisions, taking actions and assigning values that are 
leading us away from the world as it should be . . . away from all that is 
essential for a healthy planet and a healthy commonwealth of people. A new 
approach and a new culture are needed."

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic 
Bishops, and Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in 
America, urged Catholic and Orthodox believers to collaborate "with others 
of good will" in fulfilling the patriarchs' call "to heal and care for 
God's creation."

* Cross at Ground Zero: The organization American Atheists has taken aim at 
plans to leave a "miracle debris" cross at the World Trade Center site, 
saying that a permanent Christian memorial would violate the separation of 
church and state and be insensitive to those victims who had no religious 

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which has received more than $2 
billion from the government to rebuild at the site, has been asked to 
include a cross made of debris found by a construction worker in the 
redevelopment plans for the area, the New York Daily News reported.

Ed Malloy, a board member of the development group, asked the agency to 
incorporate the steel cross into the design of a planned Sept. 11 memorial. 
He also requested that the cross not be moved.

"We hope it's going to stay right where it is," Malloy said of the steel 
girders, which were found in the rubble of Building 6 in the shape of a cross.

Ron Barrier, national spokesman for American Atheists, said that Muslims, 
Hindus and other non-Christian believers also died in the attacks.

"What about them? Are we going to turn the site of the WTC into a religious 
shrine with competing religious slogans, symbols and displays?"

A spokesman for the Port Authority, which owns the site, said there are no 
immediate plans to move the cross.
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