Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bush Administration Muzzles National Park Service Employees To Curry Favor with Biblical Literalists

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Add this to the list of actions that qualify Bush for impeachment proceedings:

How old is the Grand Canyon? A knowledgeable geologist would say that the canyon itself was formed within the past 5 or 6 million years. Fairly young by geological standards, but far too old for those who think Jesus' life was similar to a Flintstones cartoon. Of course, anyone who watches the Colbert Report knows that the facts are not to be trusted. When it comes to geology, such accepted information is downright offensive to Bush administration appointees at Grand Canyon National Park. "In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology," stated Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

This denial of reality has extended far beyond the personal beliefs of park officials, affecting all employees and visitors. Employees of the park are not permitted to give an official estimate of the canyon's geological age, and are instead required to reply with "no comment" if posed with the question. A pamphlet providing guidance for staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues has also been suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees.

As if that weren't idiotic enough, a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than geological forces has been on sale at the park for over three years now. In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale of the inaccurate biblically-based book, only to have his decision overruled by National Park Service (NPS) headquarters. Records also show that during the same year, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and items from the bookstore while only approving the sale of the one creationist book. Executive Director Ruch added, "[T]his is [the] equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan."

With the outright denial of evolution, global warming, geology, and the situation in Iraq, I'm beginning to think that the Bush administration is stuck inside some sort of bizarro vortex in which everything they perceive is the opposite of how it really is. PEER has urged the new Director of the NPS, Mary Bomar, to remove the book from sale at the park, allow park staff to honestly answer questions from the public, and to finally approve the suppressed employee pamphlet. Ruch added, "We sincerely hope that the new Director of the Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job."

Let's be clear about what is going on here. A federal agency (the National Parks Service) is privileging the "right" of one particular religion's adherents not to be confronted with scientifically accurate information that would contradict their dogma over my right to accurate scientific information from government employees charged with giving me that information.

That is government establishment of religion.

The president of the United States is sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution. And that means the entire Constitution -- not just the parts with which he agrees.

Via Truthdig.

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