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Controversy Brews Over Religion in National Parks
Outside Online ^ | 1.15.04 | Grayson Schaffer

Posted on 01/19/2004 8:05:16 PM PST by mhking

January 15, 2003 The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Bush Administration over an eight-foot memorial cross in the Mojave Desert, but that's just the beginning according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a public interest group involved in the suit. PEER claims that the presence of religious materials in national parks is a signal that the Bush Administration's "faith-based initiatives" are headed for the great outdoors.

The Interior Department denies that religious encroachment is in any way connected to Bush's agenda. "In my opinion, this is just another political ploy to discredit the Administration," said National Parks Service Chief of Public Relations, David Barna.

In addition to the Mojave cross, the current debate concerns a new creationist book for sale in the Grand Canyon visitor center, three plaques bearing psalms at the Grand Canyon, and pro-war and pro-life footage that was added to an interpretive video at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

At the Grand Canyon, park superintendent Joe Alston's July 2003 decision to remove the scriptural plaques was reversed the same month by NPS deputy director and Bush appointee, Don Murphy. PEER subsequently released a letter written by Murphy to the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, the group that sponsored the plaques. In it, Murphy writes, "I regret that further legal analysis and policy review did not take place prior to the removal of these plaques…" The plaques had been in the park since the 1960s.

The controversial book in question (Grand Canyon: A Different View, by Colorado River guide Tom Vail) asserts that the Canyon was formed by the same Biblical flood that set Noah's Ark afloat, and therefore could not be more than a few thousand years old. By contrast, James Hutton's 1795 Theory of the Earth, With Proofs and Illustrations, set forth the principal that the earth's surface is constantly being eroded and uplifted by forces at its core. A corollary to Hutton's theory was that the earth had to be far older than 6,000 years. Hutton is often credited as the father of modern geology.


The book's detractors are opposed to both the public dissemination of pseudo-science in the national parks, and the blurring of Church and State. According to David Barna, the NPS does not endorse the book as a scientific hypothesis for the Canyon's formation.

"The National Park Service is under directive to use the most current scientific practices and teachings in its interpretive centers," says Barna.

In the Mojave Desert, a memorial cross dedicated to World War I veterans was challenged in court by the ACLU on behalf of former NPS administrator and PEER board member Frank Buono. The initial complaint and subsequent appeals were decided in Buono's favor. While the case was awaiting appeal in California's ninth circuit, Congressman Jerry Lewis circumvented the issue by orchestrating a land swap in which the Barstow chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was given ownership of the acre of land containing the cross.

The Lincoln Memorial video initially caused a stir when it was announced that a gay rights and pro-choice rally would be expunged from the tape. Instead of removing this footage, however, the NPS opted to add pro-war and pro-life footage to the tape to make it "more balanced." Last December, President Bush instructed federal agencies not to discriminate against religious organizations when awarding federal grant funding. Under his directive, the Old North Church, made famous in Paul Revere's ride, became eligible for preservation funding.

One of the responsibilities of the NPS is to preserve the parks' history. "You can't talk about the history of this country without talking about religion," says David Barna. "At Devils Tower, the interpretive talk includes the Native American opinion that the striations in the tower are from the claws of a Great Bear." In Barna's view, the recent allowances are a matter of respecting other viewpoints rather than lending merit to unscientific theories.

PEER spokesman Chas Offut, however, sees the NPS position not as respect for other viewpoints, but as "a message to the American people that the NPS supports faith-based initiatives."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bush43; grandcanyon; greatflood; noah; noahsflood; nps

1 posted on 01/19/2004 8:05:17 PM PST by mhking
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To: Howlin; Ed_NYC; MonroeDNA; widgysoft; Springman; Timesink; dubyaismypresident; Grani; coug97; ...
Just damn.

If you want on the list, FReepmail me. This IS a high-volume PING list...

2 posted on 01/19/2004 8:05:35 PM PST by mhking (The powerful NFC South: 3 of the 4 teams have gone to the big dance within the last 5 years.)
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To: mhking
The ACLU needs to realize that they are not the only ones living in this country, that we are a country with freedom of religion and we will not tolerate those that seek to destroy it.

I don't care if they are offended, hurt, disturbed or whatever. They better leave us alone. I see the purpose behind all this nonsense and don't think for a minute I will stand for it.
3 posted on 01/19/2004 9:22:01 PM PST by ClancyJ (It's just not safe to vote Democratic.)
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To: mhking
An email I received.

Just Suppose

Author Unknown

JUST SUPPOSE that at every ball game, graduation, prom, etc., someone who has had enough of stupid, anti historical court decisions had the guts to start reciting the Lord's Prayer loudly, and others joined in, then more, until hundreds participated.

And JUST SUPPOSE this spread all over our land until this became standard practice in hundreds of schools-then thousands then tens of thousands.

Just what would local school boards do? Expel half the student body? (They need their jobs and federal funding far too much to do that.) What would a Federal district court do? Order hundreds of nonviolent, decent minors jailed? Or thousands?

Just what would the Supreme Court do about it - issue more edicts?

What if millions decided the Supreme Court was out of its league and said, "So what?"

JUST SUPPOSE hundreds of brave school board members, local judges, prosecutors, and others, each in their own area of authority, refused to intervene, realizing that we have already tried it the other way, and the result was a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah of immorality and senseless violence.

JUST SUPPOSE this then spread next into classroom after classroom, and either a brave student or a brave teacher started the Lord's Prayer (or Psalm 100, or a Bible reading, etc.) each morning, until hundreds of thousands stood up and did their part and stopped cowering before the destructive, God-hating secular attitudes of the pagan minority who parrot the media line.

JUST SUPPOSE every God-fearing Christian participated--peacefully, nonviolently, but firmly and continually. Where would they get enough jails to hold us all? How would they prosecute hundreds of thousands?

It is far more than the government can do to even stop the flow of illegal drugs, despite their best efforts, and overcrowded jails.

Hardened criminals walk after doing only half of their sentence to ease jail crowding. Even if they try to pick on a handful to make examples of them, what if hundreds of thousands stood up to the tyranny of the minority and demanded their freedom of religion back? They can't build enough jails or courts to begin to deal with such a movement.

During the Civil Rights battles of the 60's, some of the black people decided they had had enough and stood up to the system -- a few dozen here, a few hundred there -- and eventually the whole country heard, and repented, and changed. Racial repression was an evil whose time was over.

But now, there is another battle--and the stakes are even higher.

The future of all children, white, black, and otherwise, is at stake. No other country on earth allows a tiny minority of impractical anti-religious bigots to censor their people's right to free religious expression. Even Russian public schools show videos of the life and teachings of Jesus now. We tend to get exactly the kind of government we deserve.

If you make a time line or a graph, you will see that the exponential increase in public school violence, pregnancy, and foul language all started at exactly the time the Supreme Court threw prayer and Bible reading out of the schools. We told God we didn't need Him, and the results speak for themselves.

JUST SUPPOSE hundreds of Christians passed this message on to all their friends, leaders and contacts.

JUST SUPPOSE hundreds of churches, organizations and ministries passed this message on to their constituencies with a request to reprint, repost and repeat it wherever possible.

JUST SUPPOSE you are a lighthouse. Once upon a time the Church was the moral conscience and spiritual lighthouse of the nation. Now, most congregations are impotent, pusillanimous minor-league social welfare agencies or mutual comfort societies with no impact on the world around their little enclave.

JUST SUPPOSE -- What do you suppose you should do?


4 posted on 01/19/2004 9:24:24 PM PST by ClancyJ (It's just not safe to vote Democratic.)
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To: mhking
5 posted on 01/19/2004 10:00:27 PM PST by LiteKeeper
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