GRAND CANYON: Geologist sues park for discrimination – Update

Grand Canyon National Park
  • Update: Andrew Snelling will get his permit to collect rocks in Grand Canyon, Scott Wartman of Cincinnati.com reported. Snelling dropped his lawsuit after the National Park Service offered to have “experienced staff” help “pinpoint locations and determine appropriate sampling methodology.” In a statement, Snelling said he was “gratified that the Grand Canyon research staff have recognized the quality and integrity of my proposed research project and issued the desired research permits so that I can collect rock samples in the park, perform the planned testing of them, and openly report the results for the benefit of all.”

Here is our original story regarding Snelling:

A geologist-turned-creationist, who declared Grand Canyon National Park denied his request to obtain rocks from the Park based on his spiritual beliefs, is suing on premises of alleged religious discrimination.

Andrew A. Snelling, a geologist with a doctorate in the field from the University of Sydney, called the Grand Canyon National Park and the United States Department of Interior and the National Park Service in his suit.

In November 2013, Dr. Snelling requested approval to eliminate 60 half-pound rocks from different areas of the Colorado River within the canyon, from park administrators– a request that was rejected last July.

Dr. Snelling’s lawsuit, submitted May 9, declares NPS’s actions “demonstrate animus towards the religious viewpoints of Dr. Snelling … and violate Dr. Snelling’s free exercise rights by imposing inappropriate and unnecessary religious tests to his access to the park.”

His beliefs were not mentioned in his license demand, but, according to the New York Times, Dr. Snelling was “no stranger to park officials, as he had guided lots of Biblical-themed rafting trips through the canyon and done research there.”

“It’s one thing to debate the science,” said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian nonprofit representing Dr. Snelling. “But to deny access to the data not based on the quality of a proposal or the nature of the inquiry, but on what you might do with it is an abuse of government power.”

The suit alleges Grand Canyon National Park victimized Dr. Snelling “because of his creationist beliefs and by doing so violated Snelling’s constitutional rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” according to ScienceMag.org.

It likewise alleges NPS did not abide by President Trump’s current religious freedom executive order.

“This case perfectly illustrates why President Trump had to order executive agencies to affirm religious freedom,” said McCaleb. “Because park officials specifically targeted Dr. Snelling’s religious faith as the reason to stop his research.”

When reached for comment, a Grand Canyon National Park representative stated the National forest Service does not talk about pending lawsuits.

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