Grand Canyon in Divide

National park debates over the decision to sell religious literature.
( [email protected] ) Jan 12, 2004 11:25 AM EST

PHOENIX, Arizona – According to Associated Press, a book by the founder of Canyon Ministries, which organizes Christian whitewater rafting trips through the Canyon, and a former Colorado River guide, Tom Vail, has put the Grand Canyon into the debate due to a controversial claim that the Grand Canyon was formed as a result of the great flood of Genesis and is therefore only a few thousand years old.

The book, entitled “Grand Canyon: A Different View,” contains a collection of essays by fellow creationists who favor a biblically based view of the Earth’s formation, has been sold at the national park’s bookstore but because of its contained claim about the biblical formation of Grand Canyon, the park is reconsidering the display of religious materials at public sites.

The national park’s spokeswoman Dawn O’Sickey reported that the criticism began just weeks after “Grand Canyon: A Different View” went on sale at the park’s bookstores in August. It was also after a dispute initiated by civil libertarians and consultations with the U.S. Solicitor's Office over displaying plaques that contained biblical words.

Now, the Justice Department is reviewing whether the plaques should be removed permanently or remain at the park.

Some critics believe that the book allowed the National Park Service to avoid the pressure of conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups, by complying to their requests.

"The overall concern is that the top managers of the park service are implementing a conservative agenda that is at odds with their duties as custodians of the nation's heritage," said Jeff Ruch, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit group of federal and state resource workers.

"This is a book that by its cover it shouts out, 'This is a biblical interpretation of how the Grand Canyon came to be in only thousands of years,"' Ruch said. "This is a decision to approve, in essence, a religious book."

However National Park Service officials say before any kind of actions they make, they first seek legal advice. Indeed they referred the book to the National Park Service for review. The National Park is trying to avoid any biased viewpoint but only remain “historically accurate.”

Officials there are preparing a letter telling Grand Canyon administrators that the book most likely will not be restocked, said David Barna, another spokesperson for the National Park Service, because it does not comply with what is conventionally accepted in archaeology, that the canyon is millions of years old.