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Overland Park man complains about zoo’s Buddha statues

January 14, 2009

From The Kansas City Star

David Engle said he felt a chill down his spine Sunday on a visit with his family to the Kansas City Zoo.

He could hardly believe it when he saw zoo visitors rubbing the heads and bellies of two large, smiling statues of Buddha at the entrance to the Tiger Trail area.

“We can’t have a cross or a nativity scene on public property,” said Engle of Overland Park, who complained to a zoo employee. “It is phenomenal to me that the zoo would put up Buddha statues.”

Engle, who said he and his family are Christians, said it was idolatry and “infuriating to God.”

Buddha is the name ascribed to Siddhartha Gautama, a religious philosopher and teacher who lived in India in the sixth century B.C. and was the founder of Buddhism.

This was a new one for Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff, who said he has never heard complaints about the Buddhas before. He said they were purchased a few years ago at a statuary shop, along with concrete pagodas and a terra cotta warrior, to provide an Asian theme for the Tiger Trail.

“The zoo stays out of all politics and religion,” Wisthoff said. “I’m sorry somebody interpreted it that way. I appreciate his comments and concerns. We will discuss it with our board leadership and see if they want me to get rid of them.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. tonymil permalink
    January 14, 2009 11:50 pm

    Interesting situation. It all depends on where the zoo’s money comes from.

    If the zoo receives any money from tax dollars then the displays will probably have to be removed. It is a First Amendment issue to have government funds spent on items that promote religion.

    If the zoo does not receive any money from tax dollars then the displays can stay. Also, the zoo can then put up any religion themed display (positive or negative) of it’s choice. This is also a First Amendment issue. Because it is privately funded the government can’t step in and say “You can’t have this display but you can have that one. This religious symbol is ok but that one has to go.”

    If you find out more about this please post it. I would like to know how it goes.

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