Answers in Genesis Scientist Sues Grand Canyon for Religious Discrimination

May 31, 2017 11:20 AM EDT

An Answers in Genesis scientist is suing the Grand Canyon National Park for religious discrimination after park officers denied his request to obtain rocks from the Park based on his religious beliefs.

According to AiG, Dr. Andrew A. Snelling, a creationist geologist who received his PhD in geology at The University of Sydney, asked for 60 half-pound rocks from various sections of the canyon in November 2013.

However, even though he never mentioned his faith in the initial proposal, Dr. Snelling -- who had previously conducted research at the site -- said the park officials' reluctance to provide samples was a discrimination of his creationist perspective.

Young-earth creationists believe that the creation days of Genesis 1 were six literal (24-hour) days, which occurred 6,000-12,000 years ago, says AiG. They believe that about 2,300-3,300 years before Christ, the surface of the earth was radically rearranged by Noah's Flood.

The lawsuit, filed in May by the civil liberties group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of Snelling, argues that park officials feared the proposed study could "yield results that will undermine an idea that is heavily promoted inside the park: namely, the argument that the canyon's strata were formed over millions of years."

"With his intended research, Dr. Snelling seeks to gather samples at folds inside the canyon where all the layers were bent but were not shattered because the rocks were still soft as they folded-supposedly remaining soft over a period of 450 million years," it notes.

ADF attorneys argue that scientists should not be forced to change their beliefs to agree with the government to make a living. They also maintain that  government officials can't require people to give up their beliefs as a requirement for getting a permit, and there should be no religious test for a credentialed scientist seeking to engage in further research in the canyon.

"This case is all about giving the freedom for a scientist to do good science without having to undergo a religious litmus test," said Dr. Snelling. "The samples I have been blocked from collecting in the GCNP are to be subjected to routine lab processing and investigations any good scientist would perform. The results are to be openly reported for all scientists to draw their own conclusions, whether they agree with my worldview interpretation of the history of the Earth."

Regarding the park's censorship, Dr. Snelling added, "We expect debate about what the evidence means, but the park shouldn't prevent us from collecting data just like other scientists. I am merely asking for equal treatment by the government."

On Facebook, AiG president Ken Ham called the case "another example of intolerance and discrimination against Christianity by secularists who only want their view allowed."

In a statement, Ham said that his colleague is "just asking for equal access to the canyon and not be stonewalled" and suggested that secular scientists such as Bill Nye would not receive such treatment.

"I wonder if the same scientists and activists like Bill Nye who joined the so-called March for Science in Washington last month will support a highly qualified scientist like Dr. Snelling and file amicus briefs on his behalf," he said.

In a February interview with The Gospel Herald, Ham warned that such attacks on Christianity aren't likely to stop anytime soon.

"We've seen an increasing attack on Christianity," he said. "We've seen the increasing secularization of our western world. It's not just an increasing rejection of Christianity, it's an increasing intolerance of Christianity. Ultimately, it's it's really a battle between religions. If you go to Genesis 3, God said, 'Don't eat of the fruit of the tree,' but the devil said, 'You can become like God.' That really started a battle, and it's the same battle we have today. It's a battle between God's word and man's word."