A Christian geologist affiliated with the Creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AIG) has sued the Grand Canyon National Park after it refused to give him permission to collect and test rock samples.
Andrew Snelling, the research director for AIG, filed a civil rights and religious discrimination complaint in the U.S. District Court of Arizona on Tuesday, accusing federal officials of denying him a research permit because of his religious beliefs.
In the complaint, Snelling stated that he requested permission in 2013 to study the "folding Paleozoic sedimentary structures at four locations within the Grand Canyon ... seeking to collect a maximum of 60 one-half-pound samples of rock from these unique folds."
Lexington Herald Leader reported that the park officials sent his proposal to reviewers, who reportedly advised the officials to turn down the geologist's request.
One of the reviewers consulted by the park officials was Dr. Karl Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico, who hypothesized that the Grand Canyon was younger than previously thought. He believed that the Canyon was only six million years old, rather than 60 million.
"Dr. Karlstrom's responses briefly addressed a few scientific issues while demonstrating antipathy for Dr. Snelling's religious faith and the religious views of the scientists who provided peer reviews on behalf of Dr. Snelling," the complaint stated.
In 2016, Snelling, who believes that the rocks at the Canyon are less than 10,000 years old, received a permit to take pictures of the proposed sampling sites from the river, but not to collect rock samples.
The complaint noted that Snelling had been previously allowed to conduct research in the Grand Canyon, but he faced some unusual administrative roadblocks in his research applications beginning in 2013.
Snelling noted that he has also worked for Canyon ministries, which conducts rafting tours at the Canyon with a Biblical perspective.
"Defendants' activities are motivated by hostility towards Dr. Snelling's viewpoints and sincerely held religious beliefs," the complaint stated.
"Defendants' policies and practices have burdened Dr. Snelling's free exercise of his religion absent any compelling state interest," it continued.
Snelling, a native of Australia, has a doctorate from the University of Sydney. He has been with AIG since 2007, and he speaks on various topics such as Noah's Flood, fossils and the Grand Canyon, which he says "defies the explanations offered by evolutionary geologists."
He had questioned the practice of radioactive dating of rocks, and he had helped in formulating exhibits at AIG's Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, which features humans coexisting with relatively small and friendly dinosaurs.