TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa Zoo (search) will add a display featuring the biblical account of creation following complaints to a city board about other displays with religious significance, including a Hindu elephant statue.
The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday in favor of a display depicting God's creation of the world in six days and his rest on the seventh, as told in Genesis (search), the first book of the Bible.
The vote came after more than two hours of public comment from a standing-room-only crowd.
Zoo employees, religious leaders and others spoke in opposition, saying religion shouldn't be part of the taxpayer-funded scientific institution.
But those who favored the creationist exhibit, including Mayor Bill LaFortune (search), argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh, outside the elephant exhibit and a marble globe inscribed with an American Indian saying: "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father."
"I see this as a big victory," said Dan Hicks, the Tulsa resident who approached the zoo with the idea. "It's a matter of fairness. To not include the creationist view would be discrimination."
Hundreds of people signed a petition supporting the exhibit.
The new display will include a disclaimer that says it represents one view. City attorneys also advised it be placed alongside other cultures' views of creation.
Tulsa Zoo exhibit curator Kathleen Buck-Miser estimated it would take about six months to research and organize the exhibit. She expressed qualms about the zoo delving into theological debate.
"I'm afraid we are going in the wrong direction," she said.
Board member Dale McNamara, who voted against the proposal, agreed.
"I do not like the idea of scripture at the zoo," she said.
Zoo officials had argued that the zoo does not advocate religion and that displays like the elephant statue are meant to show the animal's image among cultures. The same exhibit includes the Republican Party's elephant symbol.