From The Associated Press
The Kansas City Zoo received a complaint about statues of Buddha in an Asian-themed area of the park, but an expert says the figures are of a different person entirely.
David Engle of suburban Overland Park, Kan., complained after visiting the zoo on Sunday. Engle said he found it “phenomenal” that the zoo would put up two smiling statues of Buddha when “we can’t have a cross or a Nativity scene on public property.”
Buddha is the name ascribed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Engle, who says he is Christian, called the statues idolatry and “infuriating to God.”
But Lama Chuck Stanford, executive and spiritual director of the Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery in Kansas City, said the statues are not of Buddha and should not be compared to religious symbols such as the cross or menorah.
“I have seen them,” Stanford told The Kansas City Star. “They are statues of Ho Tai, the patron saint of children in China and Japan. He is closer to Santa Claus.”
Stanford also noted that Buddhists do not worship or pray to the Buddha.
Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff says he has never heard complaints about the statues before. He said they were bought a few years ago, along with concrete pagodas and a terra cotta warrior, to provide an Asian theme for the zoo’s Tiger Trail.
Wisthoff said he would discuss Engle’s complaint with the zoo’s board.