A creationist has sued the federal government for allegedly refusing to allow him to collect rocks as part of an effort to show that the Grand Canyon is only a few thousand years old.
Andrew Snelling, who works for Answers in Genesis – the same fundamentalist organization behind the Ark Encounter theme park and Creation Museum in Kentucky – was denied access to Grand Canyon National Park to conduct his young-Earth creationism work.
As The Atlantic reported, the National Park Service grants only about 80 research requests per year at the Grand Canyon. Snelling reportedly wanted to collect 50-60 fist-sized rocks.
Represented by Religious Right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, Snelling filed a lawsuit against Park Service administrators and the Department of the Interior, alleging they had violated his constitutional rights by denying his request due to his religious beliefs.
As a believer in a literal interpretation of the Bible, Snelling asserts that the Grand Canyon was created in the aftermath of the great flood described in the Book of Genesis, rather than the accepted geological science that the canyon is result of water cutting into rock formations over billions of years. Snelling also is involved in Grand Canyon rafting tours that offer a creationist explanation for the canyon, according to the Phoenix New Times.
The lawsuit cites emails to and from Park Service officials, including one from a Northern Arizona University professor who wrote, “It is difficult to review such an outlandish proposal,” according to the New Times.
The Atlantic said park officials solicited peer reviews from three mainstream geologists to vet Snelling’s research request; “all three overwhelmingly denounced the work as not scientifically valid, a criterion the park also uses to evaluate proposals.”
Snelling’s lawsuit also notes President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive order that urges federal agencies not to burden people’s religious freedom unduly, according to the New Times.
On AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, Communications Associate Rokia Hassanein supported the government’s decision: “Creationists have the right to believe what they want, but real scientists should be first in line when it comes to access to government facilities and research help.”