Board Nixes Creationism Show at Okla. Zoo
By SHAUN SCHAFER
The Associated Press
Thursday, July 7, 2005; 9:33 PM
TULSA, Okla. -- A city board reversed direction on Thursday and rejected plans to add a
creationist exhibit to the Tulsa Zoo.
Board members voted 3-1 against installing an exhibit on the origin of life from the Bible. The
vote, made at a special meeting of the board, reversed a June 7 decision to add a Genesis story to
Dale McNamara, who voted against the display at the June meeting and again on Thursday, told the
packed house of onlookers that she carefully considered her vote.
"My 'no' vote was, on reflection, absolutely correct," she said.
As one of only nine "living museums" in the country, the Tulsa Zoo should develop displays that
explain the cultural significance of animals, McNamara said. She said an elephant-like stone
statue near the elephant exhibit fit within that mission.
The statue has been one of the key items in the fight over Genesis display. Tulsa resident Dan
Hicks had argued for the creationism display as a balance to other religious items at the zoo.
Hicks, an architect, had agreed to pay for a Genesis exhibit and came to Thursday's meeting with a
5-foot by 3-foot plan for the display as he envisioned it.
Tulsa Park and Recreation Board Chairman Walter Helmerich said he felt board members had been
deceived by Hicks. Helmerich read into the record a 1995 letter from Hicks to then-Mayor Susan
Savage concerning placement of a sign at the zoo's entrance noting that displays represent
compelling evidence of the natural sciences.
Hicks said after the meeting that his letter had been misconstrued. Hicks said he had not been
satisfied with the zoo's sign in 1995 and he wasn't pleased by the board's solution on Thursday.
"This board has deviated from their past practice of allowing religious displays to be erected at
the Tulsa zoo without censorship by voting today to censor the Genesis account of creation and in
doing so has stepped on the constitutional liberties of Tulsa taxpayers," Hicks said.
Consideration of the display was the sole item on the board's agenda. Board member Joseph Schulte
called for the vote to drop the display.
"This seemed like the best thing to do," Schulte said. "Leave the zoo just as it is."
Current Mayor Bill LaFortune was the lone board member to back the planned display. He suggested
that the board should form a committee to look at any religious symbols at the zoo and consider
what to do with them. No action was taken on this suggestion.
The board's original decision to include a biblical story on the Earth's origin had divided
residents and thrown Tulsa into the national spotlight. LaFortune had said before the meeting that
he was aware of the criticism but he wanted to raise questions about religion in general at the
Residents had crowded into the meeting and signed up on a speakers list that stretched more than
four pages. At the start of the meeting, however, Helmerich said there would be no public comment
Although he has taken a visible role in the effort, Hicks said he was only one of 300 people
interested in bringing the creationist exhibit to the zoo. Following Thursday's vote, Hicks said
those 300 would have to decide what to do next but there would be appeals to the mayor.
In the meantime, the zoo continues to have a representation of a Hindu god, a globe sculpture that
promotes pantheism and a Maasai display that contains the equivalent of posting Scripture, Hicks
said. Presenting this material represented an affront to the majority Christian population of
Tulsa, he said.
"There must be something very special about the Genesis account for opponents to fight so hard to
suppress those words," Hicks said.
Christopher W. Ashcraft
Northwest Creation Network