Monday, January 19, 2004

"Grand Canyon: A Different View" 

Critics Say the Park Service Is Letting Religion and Politics Affect Its Policies

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — To halt the removal of a cross placed in the Mojave National Preserve almost 70 years ago to commemorate World War I veterans, a Republican lawmaker from California has proposed swapping the land it sits on with a private group.

The National Park Service recently ordered the return of plaques bearing biblical verses that had hung in Grand Canyon National Park for more than 30 years before they were taken down last summer. The Park Service also approved selling a book at the Grand Canyon that suggests the canyon was created in six days several thousand years ago.

And here at the Lincoln Memorial, an eight-minute film that shows historical events at the memorial, including demonstrations for civil rights, abortion rights and gay rights, is being revised by the Park Service to add four minutes of more politically neutral events.

While the Park Service says these are unrelated incidents, reflecting no overarching political policy, a national alliance of public environmental workers says the efforts are evidence of a new program of "faith-based parks" promoted by the Bush administration with the strong support of conservative groups.
Oh, and this:
After the book, "Grand Canyon: A Different View" (2003, Master Books), by Tom Vail, a river guide and evangelical Christian who leads religious-oriented excursions, first appeared on shelves at the park's six bookstores last summer, a park employee raised objections. That led to a review by several members of the Grand Canyon staff, who recommended that the book remain on the same shelves with books that offer evolutionary explanations of how the park formed. About 300 copies have been sold, Ms. Oltrogge said, and more have been ordered.

But the book's presence clearly troubles some Park Service employees. As Mr. Barna said, "We're still struggling with it."


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