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Smokey The Bear Must Be Christian

By Malcom Lagauche (Jeff Archer)
December 28, 2003

When George Bush announced his faith-base initiative a few years ago, the lid was popped off a can of worms. Most religious organizations heralded the initiative as a progressive form of administering social services, where many people opposed the initiative because it appeared to step over the boundary of the separation of religion and government.

I will not go into the details of the faith-based initiative, but it is highly bigoted. In hiring for programs, a group can discriminate because of one's religion, or lack thereof, the sexual orientation of a person, and even the race of the person, without being held to the laws of this country which we must all obey.

The initiative was supposed to go before Congress, but Bush found himself considerably shy of the number of votes needed to pass. In his usual manner of bypassing anyone or anything that disagrees with him, Bush signed into effect an executive proclamation that allowed taxpayer dollars to enter the coffers of religious organizations with absolutely no scrutiny of the organizations and their ability to run social programs. Unlike other agencies that are granted public money for social services, the religious organizations do not have to have qualified staff. They can hire anybody they want without question.

The results of this open flaunting U.S. law and history are beginning to show. Jeb Bush, the president's brother who is governor of Florida, announced the opening of the first faith-based prison in Florida. He maintains that God will halt all the demons inside the brains of the prisoners. The Florida ACLU has called this a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution and will appeal Bush's decision.

The U.S. National Park Service can be considered one of America's best successes. For decades, millions of people have enjoyed the various wildlife regions of the country that have been held aside to remain in a natural state. Religion, economics, politics, personal lifestyles, and other such issues never came into play. People visited the parks and had a wonderful time.

That has changed. Little-by-little, with no publicity from the religious activists, the National Park Service is being altered to reflect conservative religious values.

Over the past few months, the National Park Service (NPS) has brought Christian displays to national parks and creationist books to the souvenir shops. This contradicts the statement made in 1925 by Stephen Mather, then director of the NPS: "The primary duty of the National Park Service is to protect the national parks and national monuments under its jurisdiction and keep them as nearly in their natural state as this can be done in view of the fact that access to them must be provided in order that they may be used and enjoyed. All other activities of the bureau must be secondary (but not incidental) to this fundamental function relating to care and protection of all areas subject to its control."

To show the almost stealth-like changes being made in the NPS, the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) made the following statement in a recent press release: "The NPS approved the display of religious symbols and Bible verse, as well as the sale of creationist books giving a non-evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders within national parks."

Three bronze plaques depicting biblical verses were taken out of the Grand Canyon National Park because it was deemed they may be unconstitutional. The plaques were donated by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Phoenix. Shortly after their removal, Deputy Director Murphy of the Grand Canyon National Park returned them.

According to PEER, "Murphy overruled the park superintendent who had directed the plaques removal based on legal advice from the Interior Department that the religious displays violated the First Amendment. In a letter to the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, Murphy apologized for `any intrusion resulting from' the temporary removal of the plaques . and pledged `further legal analysis and policy review' before any new action is taken."

This fall, the Park Service approved a creationist text Grand Canyon: A Different View, for sale in park bookstores and museums. The book's editor, Tom Vail, wrote, "For years, as a Colorado River guide, I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years. Then I met the Lord. Now, I have a different view of the Canyon, which, according to the Biblical time scale, can't possibly be more than a few thousand years old."

PEER mentioned that the "Park Service leadership has blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis."

Not only has the creationist version of the Grand Canyon been made available, but criticism of this theory is not allowed.

PEER executive director, Jeff Ruch, concluded, "The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups. The Bush administration appears to be sponsoring a program of faith-based parks."

Bill Berkowitz, a writer for, has been at the forefront of this issue. Much of the information in this article came from his research. Berkowitz stated, "Visitors to America's national parks have never been asked to pray in order to be able to play. No one has ever been asked to pass a religious litmus test to hike and camp on America's public lands. Can that be around the next hillside?"

And, if they must pass such a test, to which God will they have to pray before entering?

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