ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) — The National Park Service has agreed to let a Christian geologist collect rock samples from the Grand Canyon for research.
Andrew Snelling, who has a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Sydney, tried for four years to get permission to collect the samples. The park service only agreed after lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit.
“When the government refuses to allow a Christian geologist simply to collect information because it dislikes his views, it undercuts science and violates the law,” said Gary McCaleb, a senior counsel with ADF and one of Snelling’s lawyers.
Park Service officials initially denied Snelling’s request after asking several other scientists to review his proposal. They rejected his belief in young earth creationism and said he lacked proper scientific credentials.
Snelling has served as the geology spokesman for the Creation Science Foundation and is the editor-in-chief of the Answers Research Journal, a professional peer-reviewed journal. Both entities are affiliated with Answers in Genesis, a Christian apologetics organization that supports a young earth view of creation.
Officials refused to grant Snelling’s permit because he didn’t have “a credible scientific track record.” But Snelling and his legal team maintained the denials and delays amounted to religious discrimination.
In its response to ADF’s formal complaint, the Park Service acknowledged Snelling’s proposal was “well stated with methods that are similar or equal to standard scientific practice.”
Michael Kitchen, an attorney allied with ADF, commended the government for coming up with a solution that benefited everyone: “Scientists must be allowed to pursue their research, put theories to the test, and reach independent conclusions without the federal government blocking access to data based on a researcher’s religious faith.”
Snelling will be allowed to collect his samples during an Aug. 6 rafting trip. Despite the four-year wait, Park Service officials denied any wrongdoing.
“Issuance of the administrative launch permit neither implies an admission of fault by the NPS nor does it set a precedent for future issuance of administrative launch permits,” a spokesperson told The Atlantic.
Although Snelling’s most recent research request generated a lot of attention, it’s not his first time collecting samples from the Grand Canyon. And next month’s trip is far from his first. Snelling has served as a geologic interpreter on more than 30 river trips through the Grand Canyon since 1992.