U.S. national parks are the site of new church-state conflicts, particularly as the government attempts to redress legal actions that are considered to violate religious freedom.
The New York Times (Jan. 18) reports that church-state separation groups are charging that there is a trend of the Bush administration and its Republican appointees in the National Park Service (NPS) to seek to protect religious content in the parks. In the past year, there was legal pressure to remove plaques with Bible verses in Grand Canyon as well as a creationist book on the shelves of the park services’ gift stores. The NPS stepped in and ordered the plaques to be returned and also approved the creationist book.
Church-state separation groups and a national alliance of public environmental workers say such efforts are evidence of a new program of “faith-based parks” promoted by the Bush administration with the support of conservative groups. Another case currently in court involves the presence of a cross in the Mojave Desert, which was erected 70 years ago when the area was in private ownership.