WASHINGTON (RNS)--Religious conservatives--including leading evangelicals, Catholic priests, and an Orthodox rabbi--gathered in Washington April 17 to issue a statement on the environment, saying humans should takepriority over nature and that the environmental movement embraces"faulty science" and "strident street theater."

Led by talk-show host and Focus on the Family president JamesDobson, an array of conservatives gathered to launch theInterfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship and chide theenvironmental movement for being too radical.

The religious leaders signed what they called the "CornwallDeclaration on Environmental Stewardship" and urged the passage ofspecific legislation they say will aid the environment.

This is the first major statement politically conservative evangelicals have made on the environment. More liberal Protestants have advocated environmentalprotection for years. Liberal Jewish groups also advocate environmental protection.

As part of the declaration, the leaders questioned what they termed doomsdaystatistics about global warming, booming population growth, and a need forreduction in the use of fossil fuels. The signers said the mainlineProtestant National Council of Churches wants to use the global warmingissue as a "litmus test" for religious faith.

"The exaggerated attention given to global warming and otherunproven theories also diverts money, attention and scientific researchaway from problems that are critical in the United States and developingworld," the group said in a statement.

The group also took aim at the environmental lobby, sayingenvironmentalists base their platforms on "faulty science and economics,strident street theater, and demands for immediate, drastic action onproblems that are often hypothetical or overstated."

Signers of the declaration included Dobson; the Rev. D. James Kennedy ofCoral Ridge Ministries; Richard Land of the Southern BaptistConvention's Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission; the Rev. JerryFalwell of Liberty University; Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a conservativeOrthodox Jewish activist; Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus of the magazineFirst Things; and Robert Sirico, a Catholic priest who is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

Brent Blackwelder, president of the Friends of the Earth U.S.A.,disputed those claims and said the environmental movement's positions arebased on sound science. He suggested that evangelicals look to the Biblefor God's commandments to take care of the earth.

"There's very clear evidence in the Old Testament that people wereto be watching out for their neighbors and creation, and it sounds to methat this group seems to be acting on behalf on the corporate pollutersin issuing a diatribe against the environmental movement, whereas theenvironmental movement has wanted to be stewards of creation and notwanting to poison our fellow human beings," Blackwelder said.