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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Public employees campaign for removal of creationist book from Grand Canyon

Petition seeks to reverse "faith-based" illegalities in national parks

by JewsOnFirst, January 9, 2007

A public employee whistleblower organization has exposed the Bush administration's backtracking on a commitment to consider removing a creationist book from National Park Service bookstores. The book claims that the Grand Canyon formed in Noah's flood, several thousand years ago.

The whistleblower group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), has launched a public campaign for removal of the book, and, more broadly for "an end to "public dollars ... being spent to promote religion" in the national parks. PEER has posted a petition expressing that position here.

In a telephone interview with JewsOnFirst, PEER executive director Jeff Ruch said he was hopeful that the petition will prompt the new Congress to exercise oversight of the Park Service. Ruch identified two other blatant encroachments on the national parks by fundamentalist Christians -- one involving a video shown at the Lincoln Memorial; the second is a cross on public land in the California desert.

The book, Grand Canyon: A Different View, is published by the Institute for Creation Research and explains the Canyon's geological features in terms of the biblical creation story. It is being promoted by Canyon Ministries, which offers a "Christ-centered motorized rafting trip" through the Canyon; it tells its customers the Canyon was formed in Noah's flood.

The Park Service approved the book's sale in 2003, and according to published reports, responded to complaints with a promise to review the decision. PEER determined through a records request that no reconsideration process ever began.

Ruch said that National Parks Service employees sparked the campaign for the removal of the book. The employees, he said, "felt the law is being broken by giving in to Christian fundamentalist groups." They "wanted to share their unhappiness about the book with their employers, the public."

The Mojave cross
The administration is appealing a federal court's ruling that the Mojave cross, as it is called, must be removed from a 30-foot rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve. In 2005 the court ruled that a "land-swap" to put into private hands the dot of land on which the cross stands was "a sham." California Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis added the land-swap legislation to a defense bill.

PEER, along with the Jewish War Veterans and the ACLU, sued the administration to force the removal of the eight-foot high cross. A similar land-swap has kept standing the "Soledad" cross in San Diego, which countless courts have ruled must go.

The Lincoln Memorial
After visiting the Lincoln Memorial, Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition complained about a short video shown for tourists that contained clips of demonstrations held at the site. He didn't like the clips of pro-choice, pro-gay and anti-Vietnam war demonstrations.

The National Parks Service responded by committing to change the video. Wrote Sheldon on his website:

After Traditional Values Coalition alerted a senior official in the Department of Interior (DOI) about the pro-homosexual, pro-abortion content of a Lincoln Memorial video. National Park Service officials who work under the DOI have decided to modify the controversial video.

According to Ruch of PEER, the National Parks Service has spent a quarter of a million dollars searching for footage.

Sign the PEER petition
In its introduction to the petition urging a halt to the promotion of religion in our parks, PEER states:

"The Bush administration is catering to right-wing fundamentalist groups by agreeing to censor videos, peddle creationist dogma and erect crosses and Biblical plaques in our national parks. Park scientists, curators and managers who object risk their careers.

Separation of church and state is supposed to bar public dollars from being spent to promote religion but the National Park Service appears to be doing just that, installing bronze Bible plaques, litigating to display giant crosses and selling books that deny geology by claiming that the Grand Canyon is the product of Noah's Flood.

To sign the petition, click here.



Parks Agency Leaves Controversial Book on Shelf

By Cornelia Dean, The New York Times, January 5, 2007

When complaints emerged in 2004 over the sale of a creationist account of the formation of the Grand Canyon in National Park Service bookstores, Interior Department officials said they would review whether the book should be pulled from the shelves.

But there was no formal review, in part because of differences of opinion among the Park Service’s own specialists, said David Barna, a spokesman for the agency, in an interview yesterday. Continue.

Group wants creationist Canyon book pulled

By Cyndy Cole, Arizona Daily Sun, January 4, 2007

The National Park Service has dragged its feet for three years on a decision about whether to halt the sale of a creationist book saying the Grand Canyon is only thousands of years old, an advocacy group has charged.

The agency has also declined to give an official answer on the Canyon's age because of pressure from the Bush administration and religious groups, the group said. Most geologists put the Canyon's age at 5 million to 6 million years. Continue.

How Old Is The Grand Canyon? Park Service Won’t Say
Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

News Release, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, December 28, 2006

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’” Continue.

Please note: PEER has included links to relevant documents at the bottom of its news release.

Renewed concern about creationism at Grand Canyon National Park

National Center for Science Education, January 4, 2007

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility -- "a national non-profit alliance of local, state and federal scientists, law enforcement officers, land managers and other professionals dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values" -- is charging the National Park Service with stalling on a promised review of a creationist book sold at the bookstores at Grand Canyon National Park.

Although the park's bookstores are operated by a separate non-profit organization, the Grand Canyon Association, the National Park Service is responsible for approving the items that are sold there. In August 2003, the NPS approved the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, edited by Tom Vail and published by Master Books, the publishing arm of the Institute for Creation Research. A Different View expounds a young-earth creationist view of the geology of the canyon, and proclaims that "all contributions have been peer-reviewed to ensure a consistent and biblical perspective." In his review of the book, the geologist Wilfred Elders described it as "'Exhibit A' of a new, slick strategy by biblical literalists to proselytize using a beautifully illustrated, multi-authored book about a spectacular and world-famous geological feature," adding, "Allowing the sale of this book within the National Park was unfortunate. In the minds of some buyers, this could imply NPS approval of young-earth creationists and their religious proselytizing." Continue.

Eight evidences that the Grand Canyon supports God’s Word!

from the Canyon Ministries website as it was January 7, 2007

The following statements are factual descriptions of the Grand Canyon. Each statement is followed by a short explanation from a creationists’ perspective that is consistent with a catastrophic formation of the Grand Canyon, a global Flood, and a young earth. Continue.

From Canyon Ministries' home page

Experience North America’s biggest whitewater on this Christ-centered motorized rafting trip through a canyon with walls over a mile high. This once-in-a-lifetime experience will explore one of His grandest creations while spending time each day in God's Word and singing praises to the Lord. Share the enjoyment of this natural wonder of the world with fellow believers. Learn how the effects of Noah’s Flood, not millions of years of erosion, carved the Canyon.

Canyon Ministries has the privilege of running tours for both Answers in Genesis and Institute for Creation Research, two of the largest creation-based ministries in the world. Continue.

Court Strikes Down Land Exchange To Preserve Mojave Cross
Cross Must Come Down; Court Calls One-Acre Land Trade a “Sham”

News Release, PEER, April 20, 2005

Washington, DC — A Congressionally mandated land exchange to place an eight-foot-tall cross, planted atop a 30-foot-high rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve in California, in private hands is invalid, according to a federal court decision released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the five-year legal fight to remove the cross from federal land will succeed, unless the Bush Administration once again seeks appellate court review. Continue.

You can read the judge's ruling here (a PDF file).

ACLU Persuades National Park Service to Remove Christian Cross from Mojave Preserve Site

News release, ACLU of Southern California, October 31, 2000

LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California succeeded this week in persuading the National Park Service to respect religious diversity and the First Amendment by removing a Christian cross from the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County. Continue.

Lincoln Memorial Video To Be Modified

Traditional Values Coalition website, undated

Summary: After Traditional Values Coalition alerted a senior official in the Department of Interior (DOI) about the pro-homosexual, pro-abortion content of a Lincoln Memorial video. National Park Service officials who work under the DOI have decided to modify the controversial video.

Several weeks ago, Traditional Values Coalition Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon and Executive Director Andrea Lafferty alerted a senior official at the Department of Interior about the contents of a controversial video being shown at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The National Park Service is part of the DOI and oversees this memorial.

The video featured an actor imitating Abraham Lincoln over images of pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, and civil rights protests in our nation’s capital. The video gave the impression that Lincoln would have supported abortion and homosexuality. Absent from the video were any Promise Keepers marches or March for Jesus rallies at the capital. The video was totally skewed to present only a leftist viewpoint.Continue.

U.S. Park Service Airs Pro-Abortion, Pro-Homosexual Video

Traditional Values Coalition website, undated, probably 2003

Summary: A videotape shown at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, appears to suggest that one of our nation’s most beloved presidents would have supported abortion, homosexuality, and the feminist agenda if he were alive today.

A videotape being shown to tourists who visit the Lincoln Memorial’s Legacy Room, strongly implies that President Abraham Lincoln would have supported abortion on demand, homosexuality, and radical feminist causes. Continue.