A geologist is suing the National Park Service and its operations at Grand Canyon National Park because officials there refused him permission to do ordinary research due to his “Christian faith and scientific viewpoints informed by his Christian faith.”Andrew Snelling, who works with Answers in Genesis
The case was brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Andrew Snelling, who works with Answers in Genesis.
AIG said in a statement: “Apparently, Dr. Snelling’s most recent research project on behalf of a high-profile group (AiG) was deemed a threat to the prevailing viewpoint of the canyon’s formation and timing. The language used by park officials and its reviewers to describe Dr. Snelling’s proposal decry that a Christian and creationist seeks to do the research.”
The group said Snelling’s proposed study “could yield results that will undermine an idea that is heavily promoted inside the park: namely, that the canyon’s strata were formed over millions of years.
“With his intended research, Dr. Snelling seeks to gather samples at folds inside the canyon where all the layers were bent, but were not shattered because the rocks were still soft as they folded – supposedly remaining soft over a period of 450 million years.”
Snelling said the case “is all about giving the freedom for a scientist to do good science without having to undergo a religious litmus test.”
“The samples I have been blocked from collecting in the GCNP are to be subjected to routine lab processing and investigations any good scientist would perform,” he said. “The results are to be openly reported for all scientists to draw their own conclusions, whether or not they agree with my worldview interpretation of the history of the Earth.”
ADF noted Snelling holds a Ph.D. in geology from the internationally acclaimed University of Sydney and has conducted geological research in Australia and the United States. He has published works in peer-reviewed journals and has substantial field and laboratory experience with both theoretical and practical geological research.
“Nonetheless, National Park Service officials denied his routine request to obtain a few fist-sized rock samples from the Grand Canyon after learning of his Christian views about the Earth’s beginnings,” ADF said. “Despite the fact that Dr. Snelling had accomplished prior research in the canyon, Park officials ran him through a gamut of red tape for more than three years.”
ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb noted scientists will always look at data and challenge one another’s interpretations.
“Such disagreement is how science works. But when the government starts refusing access to even collect the information because it dislikes one scientist’s views, it undercuts science and violates the law,” he said.
ADF Allied Attorney Michael Kitchen said the case “perfectly illustrates why President Trump had to order executive agencies to affirm religious freedom, because park officials specifically targeted Dr. Snelling’s religious faith as the reason to stop his research.”
“The government isn’t allowed to discriminate against someone based on their viewpoint, and National Park officials have absolutely no legal justification in stopping a scientist from conducting research simply because they don’t agree with his views,” he said. “Using someone’s views to screen them for a government benefit is unconstitutional.”
Scientists who conduct research in the park must explain their objectives and obtain a permit.
However, in Snelling’s case, the lawsuit explains, permit coordinator Ronda Newton insisted on two peer reviews of his plans.
He provided three, all recommending his work.
But then Newton went to additional lengths and asked for the opinion of a professor from the University of New Mexico, Karl Karlstrom, who demonstrated “antipathy for Dr. Snelling’s religious faith and the religious views of the scientists who provided peer reviews on behalf of Dr. Snelling.”
Newton sought another opinion from Peter Huntoon of the University of Wyoming, who worked with Karlstrom on various projects.
He condemned Snelling’s plan, arguing “ours is a secular society as per our constitution (sic)” and suggested “inappropriate interests” should be “screened out.”
The park wanted to require Snelling first to travel through the canyon and obtain GPS coordinates of locations he wanted to research before obtaining a permit.
“The actual reason behind the rejection was because of Dr. Snelling’s Christian faith and scientific viewpoints informed by his Christian faith,” the lawsuit charges.
Defendants are Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, National Park Director Michael Reynolds, Regional Director Sue Masica and park Supt. Christine S. Lehnertz.
Snelling said: “We expect debate about what the evidence means, but the Park shouldn’t prevent us from collecting data just like other scientists. I am merely asking for equal treatment by the government.”
He had proposed collecting about 40 small samples from inside the canyon. But after throwing up multiple obstacles, the park eventually quit responding to Snelling and then refused to respond to a question from Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., on behalf of Snelling.
In its statement, AIG pointed to President Trump’s executive order May 4 affirming the executive branch’s intent to “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom.”
“The primary defendant in the Snelling lawsuit is the Department of the Interior, which manages America’s national parks,” AIG said. “The DOI falls under the purview of President Trump’s executive branch of government.”
Ken Ham, president of AiG, explained his scientist is “just asking for equal access to the canyon and not be stonewalled.”
“The case is about good science being practiced by a good scientist who is being blocked by intolerant government bureaucrats. They have shown a clear animosity toward a researcher’s faith and want to trample on his civil rights.”
WND could not reach the park office at the Grand Canyon for comment.