Creationist allowed to chisel away at Grand Canyon under Trump's new religious freedom order

The geologist believes the Grand Canyon was created by 'catastrophic erosion' after a great biblical flood

Emily Shugerman
New York
Friday 07 July 2017 19:08 BST
A general view of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
A general view of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)

An Australian creationist has received permission to collect rocks from the Grand Canyon in an attempt to prove the occurance of a great biblical flood - thanks in part a recent executive order from Donald Trump.

The National Parks service recently approved an application from Andrew Snelling, a certified geologist and evangelical Christian, which will allow him to collect “50 or 60” fist-sized rocks from the Grand Canyon.

Mr Snelling said the samples will serve his work of "investigating geological phenomena from the perspective of one who believes in the truth of the Old and the New Testaments”.

The National Parks Service had initially declined the application, claiming his application lacked scientific merit.

But the scientist sued for religious discrimination, citing a recent executive order from Mr Trump. The order directs federal agencies to “respect and protect the freedom of persons and organisations to engage in religious and political speech”.

Mr Snelling is a young-Earth creationist – a small religious subset that believes the earth was created by God only a few thousand years ago.

The scientist believes the Grand Canyon is not a result of billions of years of erosion, but of a “catastrophic erosion” event after Noah’s flood.

In considering Mr Snelling’s proposal, the Park Service consulted three mainstream geologists. All three said his work was not scientifically valid and one pointed out that the rocks could also be found outside the canyon.

"My overall conclusion is that Dr. Snelling has no scientific track record and no scientific affiliation since 1982," wrote Karl Karlstrom, a geologist at the University of New Mexico.

The Parks Service also noted that Mr Snelling's proposed sampling method – a hammer and chisel – would "permanently visibly mar the geological structures themselves".

But lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal advocacy group who filed the lawsuit on Mr Snelling’s behalf, maintained that this was a case of religious discrimination.

“This 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,” ADF lawyer Gary McCaleb said.

The Parks Service has now agreed to let Mr Snelling proceed with his research, so long as he meets with “experienced staff” to discuss sampling locations and "appropriate sampling methodology".

He said: "I am gratified that the Grand Canyon research staff have recognised 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."

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