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An organization representing public employees that opposes the presence of a biblical book on the Grand Canyon in National Park Service bookstores contends the federal government has approved the resource despite claims by the agency the matter is still under review.
As WorldNetDaily reported, a controversy began brewing in January over the book, “Grand Canyon: A Different View” by veteran Colorado River guide Tom Vail, which claims the Grand Canyon was formed by the Old Testament flood Noah survived and can be no older than a few thousand years. That contention caused some scientists to call for the book to be pulled from shelves of the Grand Canyon’s gift shops. Most geologists contend the canyon is millions of years old.
“The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago,” said William Ausich, president of the Paleontological Society, according to Religion News Service. “It is the job of the National Park Service to present the best scientific information possible to the public, and the book is complete pseudoscience.”
Mark Looy disagrees, saying the canyon is much younger. Looy is vice president of Answers in Genesis, a creationist organization that contributed essays to the book.
“The canyon was formed as a result of the aftereffects of Noah’s flood, a worldwide global flood,” he said. “Most of the canyon was formed by a lot of water over a relatively short period of time.”
In January, David Barna, chief of public affairs for the National Park Service, told WND the agency would study the issue of the book and make a determination about whether or not it would stay in the government-sponsored bookstores.
Asked when he thought the controversy would be resolved, Barna said at the time: “Within the next three or four weeks,” adding, “Upper management knows what’s going on.”
Nine months later, however, a final decision has not been made, and one organization says its investigation proves the Bush administration has de facto approved the book.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, says no review ever took place.
“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,” the organization said in a statement.
Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, says his group made a Freedom of Information Act request for any documents pertaining to the review and came up with nothing.
“We could divine no written indication the review is current,” Ruch told WND, “so they’re either withholding documents or they’re lying.
“There’s not a single transmittal letter from the Park Service.”
In the group’s July FOIA request, it asked for everything having to do with the review.
“What we got back was a bunch of press clippings,” Ruch told WND with a chuckle. “The difference between stalling and a ‘review’ becomes increasingly unclear.”
Ruch, in representing public-employee geologists, says they are “outraged and humiliated” that the book is still in park stores.
“They see it as tantamount to having creationist texts in public schools,” he said, saying selling the book at the Grand Canyon is no different than approving a book claiming Yellowstone’s geysers are the work of Satan.
The National Park Service denies PEER’s contention that no review ever occurred.
“The latest is that it’s still under review,” Elaine Sevy, a spokesperson for the NPS, told WorldNetDaily. “The review has not been shelved. I know it takes the federal government forever to do something, but this particular issue is very complex.”
Sevy said the matter is “being looked at very carefully because it could be precedent-setting throughout the Park Service.”
She says the matter has been turned over to the Department of Interior Solicitor’s Office, the agency’s team of lawyers, who have the option of working with Department of Justice attorneys to consider “separation of church and state issues.”
Sevy mentioned Park Service bookstores currently have “a variety of perspectives in our bookstores,” including books on Native American spirituality.
“There’s no conspiracy or anything here,” she said. “We’re trying to do the right thing.”
The book will continue to be sold in Grand Canyon bookstores until a determination is made, Sevy said.
The controversy originally sparked thousands of e-mails to the National Park Service in a span of a few days from both proponents and opponents of the book.