Genesis display to appear in Tulsa Zoo

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[1].  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[2].  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?[3]

·        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 contained discrepancies[4].  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 [5].


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 [6]: 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


[1] The Genesis account of creation is contained in the religious literature of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths.  Over 2.5 billion people on this planet are familiar with this passage.

[2] Ric Ergenbright is a well known photographer from Oregon with photography currently on display in locations such as the Smithsonian Institute.  He is the author of the books Art of God; The Heavens and the Earth, The Image of God; The Glory of Man, and Think on these things.

[3] Creationism is the majority view of Oklahomans and should be represented in the origins display.  A Tulsa World article titled, "Few Sooners deny divine hand," published on April 12, 2000, featured a poll of 700 Oklahoma residents which revealed that 60% of Oklahomans identify themselves as creationists while only 3% hold the naturalistic view that man evolved from lower life forms and God had no part in the process.  33% hold a view that man evolved, but God guided the process.  The Tulsa World article stated, "Creationism is the clear choice regardless of income level, race or political bent, the survey shows."

[4] The opponents of the Genesis display argued that Genesis chapter one and Genesis chapter two are two different accounts of creation.  Are there two creation stories in Genesis?  The answer is clearly No.  Genesis chapter one is an overview of the creation of the earth, the universe, living things, and man.  Genesis chapter two provides additional details of the creation centering on day 6 with the creation of man (see Day 6 Commentary for a fuller explanation).  Additionally, twice in the New Testament, Jesus unites Genesis chapter one and chapter two as a single event.  In Mark 10: 6, Jesus says, "But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female."  This is a quote from Genesis chapter one.  Jesus continues in verse 7 by saying, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  This is a quote from Genesis chapter two.  Jesus again unites Genesis chapter one and two as a single event in Matthew 19:4-5.

[5] In previous Parks and Recreation Board meetings, Zoo staff tried to make the case that these religious symbols were only culture; while a Genesis display would be religious.  This same duplicity continued during the June 7th meeting, opponents of the Genesis display tried to argue that the statue of the Hindu god Ganesha, is not a religious symbol.  They continually referred to it as an elephant statue.  A turning point came when John Jones, a supporter of the Genesis display, pointed at the poster of Ganesha and firmly stated, "That is not an elephant.  That is Ganesha, son of Shiva, one of the primary gods of the Hindu religion."  Earlier in the meeting Dan Hicks had identified Ganesha as a six foot tall, three dimensional representation of a Hindu deity.  He said, "You don't get much more religious than that."  Jim Derby, a member of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, said he opposed the Genesis display and was insulted that Mr. Hicks had referred to Ganesha as an "idol."  Derby said, "I have some dear Indian friends and Ganesha is as much a symbol of the Hindu religion as the cross is a symbol of Christianity."  Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune immediately seized on Derby's comments and said he hoped Mr. Derby would not mind if he quoted him later in the meeting.  Mayor LaFortune used the comments of Mr. Derby several times to demonstrate that Ganesha is a symbol of the Hindu religion.

[6] DNA is extremely complex holding books of information.  This DNA provides the instructions to every living thing and points to the existence of an Intelligent Designer Who created this information with a point of origin.  The pure naturalist believes sub-atomic particles somehow came into existence, formed into atoms and molecules, and then through some chance random process formed interdependent and interrelated organisms that could not exist individually without all of the components present (and the DNA holding the books of information).  This is clearly a faith and not a scientific fact.  Logically it takes a stronger faith to believe evolution than the Genesis text when one really studies scientifically the complexity of living things.

Jesus Created Ministries (JCM) - Page last updated January 12, 2007