On May 9, a Christian geologist filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the National Park Service (NPS) for denying him a research permit to collect and study rocks from Grand Canyon National Park which could support a creationist hypothesis.

In 2013, Andrew Snelling, who holds a doctorate in geology from the University of Sydney, submitted a request to study the folding of Paleozoic sedimentary structures from four places in the Grand Canyon. The NPS denied his request to obtain 60 half-pound rock samples to determine when folds in the sediment had occurred.

After submitting his request, the NPS requested that he obtain two peer reviews evaluating his research proposal. Snelling complied and submitted three peer reviews. The NPS then submitted it to a researcher from the University of New Mexico which, per the complaint, dissected Snelling’s religious beliefs. The NPS then requested another review from a professor, Dr. Peter Huntoon, from the University of Wyoming who wrote “it is not a question of fairness to all points of view, but adherence to your narrowly defined institution mandate predicated in part on the fact that ours is a secular society as per our constitution.” (Italics were added in the complaint.) Huntoon went on to recommend that in the future submitters with “inappropriate interests should be screened out.”

Huntoon also characterized Snelling’s proposed research as “dead end creationist material.”

The NPS requested further information, including precise GPS coordinates and site photographs for expected research and continued to delay the research request which is not requested from other researchers and would involve considerable time and expense. During this time, the NPS granted permits for more extensive research from other scientists, including one who had opposed Snelling’s application.

Finally, on March 2017, Congressman Trent Franks contacted the NPS requesting the permit be issued. As of the filing of the lawsuit the NPS had still not granted the permit.

Snelling, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, has filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Arizona for religious discrimination.

According to ADF, Snelling was treated differently from other researchers because of his hypothesis that the Grand Canyon sediment folding occurred as part of a large flood, consistent with the biblical account of Noah’s flood and not over extended periods of time. The active attempt by the NPS to throw up roadblocks to Snelling’s research rather than let him complete his work and submit it to the scientific community for review. The NPS exists to protect natural resources and environments, not to advance or suppress a religious viewpoint.

The suit seeks a mandatory injunction for a research permit, attorney fees, costs, and an award of nominal damages. The NPS has yet to issue its response.

See Snelling v. United States Department of Interior et all – Verified Complaint filed May 9, 2017, Arizona District Court – https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/case-documents/snelling-v.-united-states-department-of-interior/snelling-v-united-states-department-of-interior—complaint.pdf


Photo: Folded layers of quartzite and metatuff of the Belle-lle-en-Mer Group of rocks, on the beach near Bordardoué on the island of Belle Île, off the southern coast of Brittany in France.  Wikimedia Commons.


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