Tulsa Zoo’s Creation Plan Sparks Controversy

A Religious Right activist has pressured the Tulsa, Okla., Zoo into planning an exhibit showing the biblical story of creation.

Dan Hicks complained that the zoo advances some religions but not Christianity. He cited a depiction of Ganesha, a Hindu elephant god. He told the Tulsa World that he believes a marble globe displayed inside the zoo’s entrance is also religious. The globe is inscribed with the words, “The earth is our mother. The sky is our father.”

But zoo officials said the items are educational and cultural, not religious. The depiction of Ganesha merely shows the use of elephants in various cultural contexts. The display also includes the American image of the elephant as the mascot for the Republican Party.

Religion News Service reported that the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted June 7 to produce an exhibit that would feature the Bible’s creation story as well as “the predominant creation stories from other cultures.”

Hicks lauded the zoo’s decision, telling the Daily Oklahoman that it “is a victory for the citizens of Tulsa, because the majority view of creation is now going to be represented at the Tulsa zoo.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter in late June to Tulsa Park officials warning them that an overtly religious display at the public zoo would likely prove constitutionally suspect.