much older than that

Before I moved to Canada, I frequently blogged on topics roughly categorized under "creeping theocracy". Whether it was attacks on an independent judiciary, pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions they don't approve of, proselytizing in the armed forces, or anti-abortion terrorism, one of the many reasons for our unhappiness in the US was the escalating Christianization of the country. And I say that with apologies to the millions of American Christians who don't interpret myths literally and who want to live in a secular state.

One of the biggest topics on our Theocracy Watch checklist has to be creationism and its barely-disguised counterpart, mistakenly called "intelligent design". (Don't let those quotes fall off, folks.)

How about this for Theocracy Watch?

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER):
How Old Is The Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say
Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

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.'"

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.
The National Parks are one of the US's truly great legacies. I grew up visiting Parks all over the country on family vacations, and their desecration breaks my heart.

Under the Resident Administration, industry interests have trumped the interests of the Parks and most Park visitors; the presence of snowmobiles in Yellowstone is one horrible example. This just kills me. Supposedly we need to "balance" the interests of the snowmobile industry (and the tiny percentage of Park visitors who want to ride them) with those of the magnificent, historic park and the millions of people who travel to it every year. Balance? Why should snowmobile interests share any part of the equation? Why shouldn't they be completely banned? Let people who want to ride snowmobiles do it elsewhere. But then, the people who make and fuel the snowmobiles would lose business, and they've contributed heavily to re-election campaigns.

This is a frightening, dangerous, slippery slope. If it weren't for the National Park Service, there'd be Canyon View Condos overlooking the Grand Canyon, and not a redwood left in Yosemite. Commercial interests have to be barred from the Parks, or the Parks will be destroyed.

This creationist ignorance is a different kind of threat, something more insidious - invisible, and even more dangerous.

There's a touch of irony in this for me, too. When I was growing up, our family vacations almost always centered on National Parks. My parents took us all over the country, near (upstate New York, Maine) and far (South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, California) to experience their natural beauty and grandeur. One of the few positive gifts I got from my father (along with his politics) was his great appreciation of nature.

On one visit to the Grand Canyon, he woke me up before dawn, and we went together, alone, to see the sun rise over the Canyon. It was an awesome sight, in the true meaning of the word. My father told me it was in the presence of great natural beauty and wonder like this that he felt his belief in god. Like most people, he saw no contradiction in feeling god's presence and understanding the natural forces that created something like the Grand Canyon. Perhaps like most people, he saw them as inextricably linked.

Here's a history of the creationist threat to the National Parks, and a look at commercial and religious threats to the National Parks. There's a petition you can sign and some other ways to take action.

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