May 12, 2017
If you've been to the Grand Canyon, you know there isn't exactly a shortage of stones. The 227-mile natural wonder is a geologist's paradise -- unless, apparently, you're a Christian. Dr. Andrew Snelling found that out three years ago when he applied for a routine permit to study the area. As a published scientist with years of experience, Snelling never dreamed his request would be an unusual one. That all changed when the National Park Service did a little digging of their own: into Snelling's faith.
Once they learned the University of Sydney graduate's views on the earth's formation, they were the ones casting stones of religious intolerance. To everyone's surprise, government officials denied the request for a handful of rock and soil samples. They insisted that Snelling could find what he was looking for outside of Grand Canyon National Park. That seemed unfair, since the government rarely -- if ever -- turned down applications from esteemed researchers like this one.
Attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) explained that "when he persisted, additional challenges came and Dr. Snelling methodically answered or rebutted each bureaucratic complaint. Then Park officials changed their story, and issued a permit which required Dr. Snelling to traverse the Canyon in a separate trip and locate every proposed sampling site with GPS coordinates and photographs -- without any assurance of ever being authorized to actually collect the samples needed. No other scientist has been subjected to such a demand."
After a three-year wild goose chase for permission that should have come automatically, Snelling filed a public records request. He was stunned to find out that Park officials were specifically discriminating because of his Christian beliefs. So, Snelling did what too many victims of this kind of religious hostility have been forced to do: he filed suit. Obviously, park officials weren't concerned that he'd disturb the area -- but the scientific debate.
Unfortunately, this is the Left's typical response when their positions are so indefensible. They silence their opponents. As most experts will tell you, it takes a whole lot more faith to believe in evolution than creation. The evidence just isn't there. In fact, liberals are so afraid of an honest-to-goodness debate that they try to hide the truth by sidelining the truth-tellers. And they accuse us of being anti-science? Conservatives embrace the facts on everything from child development in the womb to gender -- which puts us light years ahead of the party pushing the goo to zoo theory or phony climate change.
Either way, as ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb points out, "Such disagreement is how science works. But when the government starts refusing access to even collect the information because it dislikes one scientist's views, it undercuts science and violates the law. And 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... Using someone's views to screen them for a government benefit is unconstitutional."
Although this case started under President Obama's administration, let's hope it's resolved quickly under President Trump's. There's no room for government-sponsored persecution like this, even if the two sides are separated by a bigger ideological gap than this canyon!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.