“Faith-based” Grand Canyon Violations Increase

The Grand Canyon Park’s official bookstore recently began selling a creationist book, The Grand Canyon: A Different View, edited by Tom Vail, a river guide who offers Christian float trips through the Grand Canyon:

“For years, as a Colorado River guide I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years,” Vail writes in his introduction. “Then I met the Lord. Now I have a ‘different view’ of the Canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can’t possibly be more than about a few thousand years old.”

Dr. Gary Parker, in his contributing essay, writes: “Where did the Grand Canyon itself come from? . . . One thing is sure: the Colorado River did not do it.”

The American Geological Institute and American Institute of Biological Sciences are among the scientific organizations that have protested the sale of the book by the federal park.

“The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago,” noted William Ausich, president of the Paleontological Society. “It is the job of the National Park Service to present the best scientific information possible to the public, and the book is complete pseudoscience.”

U.S. Geological Survey geologist George Billingsley told the Los Angeles Times most scientists concur that the oldest formations at the Grand Canyon are nearly two billion years old.

David Barna, spokesperson for the National Park Service, told the Religion News Service, “It’s not so much about this book as it is about what we do with the other views [emphasis added] of the way geologic features in parks were created.” Barna predicted the book–which says the earth, including the Grand Canyon, was created in six days several thousand years ago–would stay. Additional copies have been ordered.

According to Counter Punch, the Bush Administration last year barred park rangers from publishing a rebuttal book sought by staff and employees who are constantly confronted by creationist zealots.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) issued a press release in December charging that the National Park Service “approved the display of religious symbols and bible verses, as well as the sale of creationist books giving a non-evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon, and other natural wonders within national parks.”

The Department of the Interior last summer overruled a decision by the Grand Canyon’s Supt. Joe Alston to remove three bible plaques last July, after conferring with Park service officials and attorneys. The bronze plaques, bearing verses from Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24, were donated by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Phoenix in the 1960s, and were erected on viewing platforms at the South Rim. The plaques, which had been given back to the convent, were ordered returned to the national park by the Department of the Interior.

Park Service Deputy director Donald Murphy even apologized to the religious group. The constitutionality of the plaques has been under review since last summer by the Justice Department, run by noted born-again John “Jesus is King of America” Ashcroft.

In related news, the Bush Administration is appealing a decision by the Mojave National Preserve in California to remove a Latin cross erected on Sunrise Rocks by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It has been the site of an annual Easter service.

PEER additionally charged that National Parks Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy has directed that footage of anti-war, gay rights and pro-choice rallies at the Lincoln Memorial be edited out of an 8-minute film. The film has been shown since 1995 at the interpretative center at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, said recent developments show “that Christian fundamentalists and morally conservative groups have a special entree with the decision-makers at the Park Service and the White House.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation