PHOENIX, Ariz. – A Christian geologist who sued government officials for discriminating against his religious beliefs will be allowed to conduct research within the Grand Canyon after all, as the National Park Service (NPS) has reversed its initial decision to deny the request.
As previously reported, Dr. Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis requested permission from the NPS to study sedimentary rock layers within the Grand Canyon. After three geologists advised the NPS that Snelling’s research was “inappropriate,” “outlandish,” and “dead end creationist material,” the NPS denied his request and recommended that he conduct his research elsewhere.
Alleging discrimination on the basis of his religious beliefs, Snelling filed a lawsuit against the NPS.
“I am merely asking for equal treatment by the government,” he said in a press release in May.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Snelling in the case. ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb said the case was troubling “because park officials specifically targeted Dr. Snelling’s religious faith as the reason to stop his research.”
On Wednesday, ADF and Answers in Genesis announced that, after the lawsuit was filed, NPS officials reversed their decision and finally granted Snelling a research permit to conduct research in the Grand Canyon. As a result, ADF attorneys voluntarily dismissed the case in federal court.
“We commend Park Service officials, Interior Secretary Zinke, and the Trump administration for understanding that specifically targeting Dr. Snelling’s faith as the reason to stop his research was both inappropriate and unconstitutional,” McCaleb said in a news release.
“As the Park Service finally admitted, ‘Dr. Snelling’s proposal is well stated with methods that are similar or equal to standard scientific practice to test the hypothesis provided,’ so it is the right choice to let the research go forward.”
“This settlement benefits everyone, in that it sends the message that the government will not interfere with basic scientific inquiry,” added ADF attorney Michael Kitchen. “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.”
In a press release from Answers in Genesis, Snelling said he was thankful that government officials reversed their decision.
“I am gratified that the Grand Canyon Research staff have recognized 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,” he said.
Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis, said that Snelling “was only asking for equal access to the canyon.”
“I trust that government officials and secular activists will think twice now before attempting to infringe on the religious liberty of Christians who are creationists and qualified scientists,” he stated. “I am very thankful for the work of the excellent attorneys at ADF for standing up for a scientist’s religious beliefs. More than ever, we need to be upholding the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom to express religious beliefs.”