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Appalachian Churches Joining Fight on Mountains

Appalachian churches joining fight on mining

Lexington Herald-Leader

November 18, 2006

We’re trying to get this issue out as an issue for churches to engage in as a moral issue

Evangelical Christians may be joining the fight against global warming, but in Appalachia, opponents of mountaintop removal have already turned to religion as a resource in their fight.

John Rausch, a Catholic priest in Stanton, has been leading tours of mining sites since 1994. ‘My perspective is that if people were to see what’s going on, they would come away saying there’s something morally wrong here,’ said Rausch, who works with the Catholic Central Committee.

‘My job is to take people who have no understanding of mountaintop removal and have my friends tell them how they are powerless when a coal company fills their streams or their tap water comes out orange.

‘God gave us a garden, and we’re screwing it up.’

The stewardship argument is an important one, Rausch said, especially when people see the devastation caused by mountaintop removal, a process in which the tops of mountains are removed to extract coal. The extra dirt and rock are piled into hollows, called valley fill.

A few years ago, Rausch joined with Steve Peake of Corinth Baptist Church to organize a prayer service on a nearby mountain to try to raise awareness of mountaintop removal.

‘People need to understand what’s going on,’ Peake said. ‘This is God’s green earth, and we ought to take care of it.’

In October, the Mennonite Central Committee in Whitesburg started giving tours of mountaintop removal sites in far Eastern Kentucky.

‘This is attracting attention not just inside Christian faith, but inside of many faiths,’ said Charman Chapman-Crane, a committee member who helped organize the first tour.

Chapman-Crane is also a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, which has mountaintop removal as one of its top priorities.

‘It’s going to take the clout of a number of different segments of the American population to solve this,’ said KFTC spokesman Jerry Hardt.

One of the newest members of the fight is Allen Johnson of Marlinton, W.Va., who recently founded Christians for the Mountains.

‘We’re trying to get this issue out as an issue for churches to engage in as a moral issue,’ Allen said. ‘Mountaintop removal is a one-shot deal; once it’s done, it’s ruined the land for any productivity.’

Christians for the Mountains recently held a conference in West Virginia and have released a DVD titled Mountain Mourning, about mountaintop removal. Johnson is trying to get churches in Appalachia to show the DVD, and if they get involved, all the better.

‘When churches get involved, there is passion, a fervency in the spirit,’ Johnson said.

Copyright © 2006 Lexington Herald-Leader, All Rights Reserved.

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article courtesy of Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition





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