Evangelical leaders stood their ground against scientists with a warm letter sent to President-elect Donald Trump welcoming his choice of climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt to head the Environment Protection Agency.
Signatories include Danny Akin, president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, president, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
The 48 evangelical, mostly Southern Baptists, insist Pruitt is well qualified to lead the agency and that he deserves "the full support of the United States Senate".
Pruitt, attorney general in Oklahoma and a deacon at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma as well as a trustee of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is not a climate change denier, the evangelical leaders state. Instead, he wants continuing debate.
The letter, published by Baptist Press, was released after the choice of Pruitt was criticised by scientists.
Quoting the psalms, the letter states: "We are evangelical Christians who are committed to a proper stewardship of all creation, driven by our knowledge that 'the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof'. We believe that every human being is called to this stewardship, and we believe that our Christian responsibility is to bear witness to the truth that God created the cosmos for His own glory and that He created human beings in His own image, bearing responsibility to advance human flourishing through many forms of human activity, from agriculture and enterprise to technology and innovation."
The evangelicals reject "any ideology that sees human beings as a blight upon the planet" and that would "harm human flourishing" by restricting or preventing rightful use and enjoyment of creation.
"We do not deny the existence of climate change nor the urgency of this concern," the evangelicals say. "We affirm an ongoing debate on the proper balance between the unleashing of human enterprise and the protection of creation. We call for justice, righteousness, and compassion in every dimension of our national life, including our government.
"We believe that Attorney General Pruitt has been misrepresented as denying 'settled science', when he has actually called for a continuing debate. This is in the very best tradition of science."
Pruitt was announced as Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month. According to Washington Post, the move represented an assault on President Obama's climate change legacy. As attorney general, Pruitt has until now found himself mainly on the opposing side to the agency.
A press release from the Presidential Transition Team made it clear there will be a change of direction and Pruitt's combative approach would continue.
Pruitt pledged to move America toward energy independence, create millions of new jobs and protect clean air and water, as well as to "rescind all job-destroying executive actions and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production."
This would create at least a half million jobs each year and produce $30 billion in higher wages, he promised.
But scientists were outspoken in their criticism.
America's largest environmental organisation, the Sierra Club, said: "Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires. He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections.
"Nothing less than our children's health is at stake. Scott Pruitt, whose own bio describes him as 'a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda' cannot be trusted to head the EPA, an agency charged with protecting all Americans from threats to their water, air, and health. We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the nation and oppose this nomination."