Genesis display to appear in Tulsa Zoo
The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted 3-1 Tuesday, June 7th to approve a display at the Tulsa Zoo
depicting the Genesis account of creation.
The decision was rendered after more than two hours of public debate and
discussion in front of a standing-room-only crowd of several hundred.
The proposal to include the
creation plaque was made by Tulsa resident, activist and Zoo Friends member Dan
Hicks. The plaque will contain the Genesis account of creation as found in
Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 2:3 and be accompanied by six pictures that align
with the six days of creation from renowned photographer Ric Ergenbright. Mr. Hicks presented the following
arguments for the inclusion of the Genesis display:
The Tulsa Zoo currently presents the
naturalistic evolutionary view as scientific fact. (Note: many were confused that the effort to include a
Genesis display was to argue the merits for creationism or evolution). Including
a Genesis display is simply a matter of fairness: if the zoo is going to open a
discussion about origins, why is only the naturalistic view presented and the
creationist view forbidden when the majority of Oklahomans are creationists?.
Other religious items are currently
located throughout the zoo (Hindu gods, pantheism, new age philosophy,
naturalistic evolution, and many others – click here to see examples).
According to Mr. Hicks and his supporters, it’s an issue of fairness. He
stated that to allow only one viewpoint is indoctrination, but to allow many
viewpoints is education. Therefore, in light of the fact that the Tulsa Zoo
includes religious material in many other exhibits, to disallow the Genesis
display in the origins exhibit on the basis that it has religious significance
is tantamount to viewpoint discrimination, which reasonable minds could argue
violates federal law
Speakers against the proposal
included representatives from the Tulsa Zoo, Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, Tulsa
Metropolitan Ministers, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, Tulsa
Geology Society, Rev. Marlin Lavanhar from All Souls Unitarian church and other
local residents. The opponents to the proposal argued that the Genesis creation
account was a myth and not scientifically provable and the text of Genesis
They contended that evolution is the only factual and provable explanation for
origins and that religious items have no place in a tax payer funded
institution. As for the idols and religious phrases throughout the zoo,
they are considered cultural and not specifically religious .
Zoo board member Mayor Bill
LaFortune argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the
statue of the Hindu god Ganesha and the globe at the entrance to the zoo with
the statement, “The earth is our mother. The sky is our father.” He
supported Mr. Hick’s proposal on the basis of viewpoint fairness and the fact
that the display would be completely privately funded by Mr. Hicks in dedication
to the memory of his father. It was stated that if this proposal was
rejected, that it would be discrimination and potentially result in the
requirement to remove all items of a religious nature from the zoo. Many
supporters from the local scientific community also argued that the evidence
for creation significantly outweighs the evidence for evolution (Note : the faith of evolution).
It was discuss that the
Genesis display will include the following qualifier: "Accounts of
creation are contained in the literature of many cultures. This display is an
example of one widely held view of origins.” At the direction of Mayor
LaFortune, the City Attorney provided a legal opinion that stated the Genesis
display is legally defensible as long as it includes this qualifier.
In the end, the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Board passed the proposal!
This effort for a creation
display in the Tulsa Zoo has received national attention. Within hours of the
vote, Dan Hicks was interviewed by Good Morning America. The story appeared on
the front page of the Wall Street Journal on June 9th. Mr. Hicks gave live
interviews to radio stations in Chicago, Seattle, and New York and has been
interviewed by Harpers magazine and the Dallas Morning News. This story is
about religious liberty. If you are going to open a discussion about origins
in a public institution like a zoo or a public school, creationism should not
be censored, excluded, or forbidden.
Let Mayor Bill LaFortune know if you support this Genesis creation display and want to see it displayed promptly. He can be reached at 918-596-2100 or BLaFortune@CityofTulsa.org