First of two parts.

When headlines announce, “Greens pray outside EPA for CO2 cuts” and “Pray the coal away,” the first thing to do is follow the money.

Were the Greens praying “to bless the rule-making process,” or were they promoting President Obama's climate change plan in gratitude for a big Environmental Protection Agency grant?

Last week, a group focused on introducing environmental activism into religious congregations nationwide – called Interfaith Power and Light – co-hosted a morning prayer outside the EPA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and called for “strict regulations to combat climate change,” according to Politico.

From 2007-2009, the EPA awarded $450,000 to Interfaith Power and Light for a project described as “an innovative way to educate Americans about the link between their energy use and its environmental impact.”

That’s certainly enough to raise questions. What kind of rhetoric followed this government grant? IPL’s 2008 Annual Report dutifully disparaged coal and oil as “fuels from Hell,” while praising costly wind and solar schemes as “fuels from Heaven” – without mention of extravagant, not-so-divine federal subsidies.

IPL's founder and president is the Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, an Episcopal senior priest (Canon). She was a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2010.

She served on the council’s “Task Force on Environment and Climate Change” that recommended a new “Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the EPA,” an unsettling piece of political crony creedism.

Further digging into Bingham’s connections revealed a lot more cross-fertilization: She was formerly a director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, and is currently a director of the Environmental Working Group and the huge Environmental Defense Fund.

Not coincidentally, EDF’s president, Fred Krupp, sits on her group’s advisory council, as do Michael Lerner, president of Commonweal, and Andrew J. Gunther, board member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, where Bingham has a reciprocal advisory position.

Also on Bingham’s advisory council is William K. Reilly, former administrator of the EPA. Such incestuous relationships must be sinful.

In 2006, Bingham lent her group’s lobbying support to the campaign for AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a mandatory cap on carbon emissions in California.

The legislature passed the bill and Bingham was present when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into state law.

All this began when Bingham conceived her Interfaith Power and Light in 1998 in the Episcopal Diocese of California.

But she gave birth to its tangled, convoluted, preaching incarnation by incorporating in 1999 under the name Regeneration Project, which incubated in San Francisco’s notoriously left-wing Tides Center until 2006.

IRS records show that Interfaith Power and Light operated in San Francisco from 1999 through 2005 as Ecoventure, led by local activist Doug Linney, with treasurer Ronald Nordhaus, who was an employee of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York City.

In 2006, Ecoventure’s name changed to the Regeneration Project, still home to the IPL campaign as “a religious response to global warming,” and a new board was elected with Bingham as president. Her current salary in the position is $119,000, according to federal tax records.

Former IPL board chairman Amy Rao and current chairman Joe Sciortino both were and are high officials of a major donor, the Schmidt Family Foundation, according to the Schmidt website. Rao is Schmidt president and Sciortino is executive director. Is the Schmidt family money running IPL?

IPL currently claims 38 “sister state affiliates,” but the IRS index of exempt organizations shows only 10 actually registered as exempt. Got all that?

According to the database CitizenAudit, created by the Washington Examiner's Luke Rosiak, Big Green foundation grants began to pour into the faith-based Regeneration Project under Bingham's leadership.

Holy cash! Where did all this consecrated political money come from? Next in this space is the answer – naming names and wondering if all the donors knew what Bingham did with it.

Tomorrow - EPA used tax dollars to fund religious climate-change advocacy group

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.