(Brendan Clarey, Liberty Headlines) The Alliance Defending Freedom sued the U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday after a Christian scientist was denied access to conduct research at the Grand Canyon because of his beliefs.
Dr. Andrew Snelling, a Christian geologist for Answers in Genesis since 2007 and Editor-in-Chief of Answers Research Journal, applied for a research permit in Grand Canyon National Park but was denied after his peer review was met with secular criticism.
“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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb in an ADF press release. “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.”
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, Snelling applied for a permit to collect sediment structures, but was allegedly met with increased scrutiny in the application process, including two peer reviews of his research proposal.
Snelling provided three peer reviews, but Research Permitting Coordinator Ronda Newton looked elsewhere. She sent Snelling’s application to Dr. Karl Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico and Dr. Peter Huntoon of the University of Wyoming. Both have worked together on Grand Canyon research projects. ADF’s complaint said both “condemned” Snelling because of his beliefs.
“…[It] is not a question of fairness to all points of view, but rather adherence to your narrowly defined institution mandate predicated in part on the fact that ours is a secular society as per our constitution,” said Huntoon about Snelling’s research proposal.
According to the complaint, Huntoon offered advice to prevent this from happening in the future. He suggested that Park Service practice “internal screening processes [that] should include an examination of the credentials of the submitters so that those who represent inappropriate interests should be screened out.”
“Dr. Huntoon advised Ms. Newton that ‘[r]eviewing is fine, just not processing the dead-end creationist material,’” the complaint said. “Ms. Newton also solicited another review from Dr. Ron Blakely of the Northern Arizona University, who summarily stated that ‘it is difficult to review such an outlandish proposal.’ No actual analysis was provided.”
Last year, Snelling applied for another research permit, this time with more specific details of sample collection sites in response to the concerns raised against his first request.
But the discrimination against Snelling didn’t stop, ADF said.
“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,” ADF’s press release said. “No other scientist has been subjected to such a demand.”
Michael L. Kitchen of Margrave Celmins P. C., a general practice law firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the lead counsel for Dr. Snelling and ADF’s McCaleb is co-counsel in the lawsuit Snelling v. The Department of the Interior.
“The government isn’t allowed to discriminate against someone based on their viewpoint, and National Park officials have absolutely no legal justification in stopping a scientist from conducting research simply because they don’t agree with his views,” said Kitchen in Tuesday’s press release. “Using someone’s views to screen them for a government benefit is unconstitutional.”
Dr. Andrew Snelling discusses creation science and evidence for a worldwide flood: