Washington, DC -- The Bush Administration has decided that it will stand by its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Despite telling members of Congress and the public that the legality and appropriateness of the National Park Service offering a creationist book for sale at Grand Canyon museums and bookstores was "under review at the national level by several offices," no such review took place, according to materials obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. Instead, the real agency position was expressed by NPS spokesperson Elaine Sevy as quoted in the Baptist Press News:
"Now that the book has become quite popular, we don't want to remove it."
In August of 2003, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, by Tom Vail, a book explaining how the park's central feature developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters that there would be a high-level policy review, distributing talking points stating: "We hope to have a final decision in February ." In fact, the promised review never occurred –
- In late February, Barna crafted a draft letter to concerned members of Congress stating: "We hope to have a final decision on the book in March 2004." That draft was rewritten in June and finally sent out to Congressional representatives with no completion date for the review at all;
- NPS Headquarters did not respond to a January 25th memo from its own top geologists charging that sale of the book violated agency policies and undercut its scientific education programs;
- The Park Service ignored a letter of protest signed by the presidents of seven scientific societies on December 16, 2003.
"Promoting creationism in our national parks is just as wrong as promoting it in our public schools," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, "If the Bush Administration is using public resources for pandering to Christian fundamentalists, it should at least have the decency to tell the truth about it."
The creationist book is not the only religious controversy at Grand Canyon National Park. One week prior to the approved sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, NPS Deputy Director Donald Murphy ordered that bronze plaques bearing Psalm verses be returned and reinstalled at canyon overlooks. Superintendent Alston had removed the bronze plaques on legal advice from Interior Department solicitors. Murphy also wrote a letter of apology to the plaques' sponsors, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. PEER has collected other instances of what it calls the Bush Administration's "Faith-Based Parks" agenda.