Christians Protest Placement of Ganesh (Elephant God) Statue at Calgary Zoo

lotus-sculpture_2072_39770795A Christian group in Calgary has organized a campaign to protest an elephant statue in the zoo that resembles Ganesh, the Hindu God. The group is challenging the three-meter statue as “selective religious partiality.”

Ganesh is the remover of obstacles and was placed at the Elephant Crossing exhibit in 2006.

The zoo says that it removed all of the religious symbols on the statue before it was erected.

However, Jim Blake, national chair of Concerned Christians Canada, insists that “[t]he zoo is not a place of religious indoctrination, it is supposed to be a safe family environment free of religious icons and selective religious partiality. The displaying of different gods in a public place like this is an offence to our beliefs and does not represent the diversity of views that should be reflected.” He asked for the zoo to also allow the placement of a cross of Jesus Christ and the Ten Commandments and Noah’s Ark if the elephant statue remains.

On one level, these complaints by Christian organizations often produce a visceral response from civil libertarians since many such groups fight for the placement of crosses and the ten commandments on public land over the objections of other religions. Yet, when a display suggests another faith, there is a strong separation of church and state response.

PicYai3y6However, this is a tough call. On one hand, there is an obvious connection to this site in using this playful statue, which most people would likely view as a simply a dancing elephant. However, if this were a statue showing Noah’s Ark or St. Francis protecting animals, would it be viewed as a neutral or non-sectarian display?

Of course, Blake does not help the claim with raw sectarian language: “The display of foreign gods is offensive and does not reflect the views of the majority of Canadians.”

I love the statue, but it does raise some legitimate questions over the separation of church and state. What do you think?

Of course, the zoo board may wish to offer the following prayer to Ganesh Upanishad to help put any lawsuit “on the right track”:


I surrender to you, Lord Ganesha. You are the speaker. You are the listener. You are the giver. You are the sustainer. I am your disciple. Protect me from the front and back. Protect me from the north and the south, from above and below. Protect me from all directions.

You are full of perfect knowledge of truth and awareness. You are full of bliss and pure consciousness. You are truth, consciousness and bliss. You are the absolute awareness. You are full of supreme wisdom and knowledge.

You are the earth, water, fire, air and the space. You are the root foundation of speech. You are beyond the three gunas: ‘sattva’, ‘rajas’ and ‘tamas.’ You are beyond the physical, mental and causal bodies. You are beyond the three aspects of time: past, present and future. You are eternally established in the muladhara chakra. You have three shaktis: action, knowledge and will.

Salutation to the Ganapati whose seed mantra is Aum Gam. We know Ekadanta, the One-tusked God, the unique God. We meditate upon Vakratunda, the curved-trunk God. May that unique elephant God illumine our consciousness and direct us along the right track.

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17 thoughts on “Christians Protest Placement of Ganesh (Elephant God) Statue at Calgary Zoo”

  1. Even if this were in the U.S.-where the First Amendment applies–it would not violate the separation of church and state rule.

    Why? Because it is racist, not religious. And it can’t be both.

    The statue is racist, but in an unusual way. It says, “We, the authorities, have deemed this religious icon (even stripped of any obvious religious trappings, it is clear where it came from) so obviously nonreligious that we decided it’s ok to put it here. In other words, your religion is so laughable and ridiculous [say the authorities, implicitly], that no one in THIS country is in danger of being converted, and no one will even think of this as a religious promotion, even if they do recognize that it originated from a religious symbol, therefore we can safely put it here on public lands without the slightest fear of running afoul of the First Amendment.”

    It not the kind of racism that says “You can’t come in here,” which implicitly acknowledges a feeling of being threatened; it’s the kind that says, “Of course, you can come in here, you are so impotent and absurd that you can only be a source of amusement to us.”

  2. This is not a “tough call.”

    1. Canada does not have the First Amendment. (For 2 extra points: Why not?)

    2. This is not a religious symbol. So what if the inspiration for it came from a relious symbol–nearly all art derives from religious art. So what. Our American eagle symbolism also comes from religous art–maybe we should ban that. This thing is more offensive (but not realy) because it is co-opting somebody else’s religion and using it for our (Westerners’) amusement.

    2. The complaniners are not Christians. (Obviously.) So until some real Christians come along and object (they will not–here’s the shibboleth: if you complain about this, you’re not a Christain), let it be.

    How did this get to be the best legal theory blog? Because of the commenters, most likely.

  3. When we observe the illogical or convoluted thinking of those such as these Canadian Christians, we must bear in mind that the very essesnce of “faith” is to accept as true an idea or concept that has little or no factual basis. Therefore, to argue a point using logic places one at a distinct disadvantage. We are often left with only a frustrated sigh.

    I really got a kick out of gocart mozart’s link to the bear creche.

    My prayer:
    God, give us atheists the strength to endure these theists.

  4. I wonder how the jews would feel if some antijew thing was done.
    I’ll bet there is a jew behind thisa statue.

    These jews have such control that at Christmas, the White House has a menorrah but not a cross.

  5. why cant they just put up a statue of St. Francis and call it even. This is what bothers me about the restrictions of Christian themes from the public square. Why cant all religions and atheists just have a place on the public square?

    The dancing elephant is whimsical and appropriate for a zoo as would a statue of St. Francis. Although a Hindu may have a problem with this and take it as an insult.

  6. It warms my heart to know that Concerned Christians Canada are as sensitive as their U.S. counterparts in taking on the great moral issues of the day, and so I join my Canadian brethren in opposition to this zoological outrage as we stand before the Calgary Zoo board and shout in unison,”Tusk, tusk.”

  7. I think the museum should place a playful cartoonish smiling Mohammed about to ascend into heaven, and a fun, chubby cartoonish Jesus smiling on a cross and looking goofy.

    And as an atheist I would be offended unless there were a fourth, empty pedestal.

  8. “BTW, WTF does “foreign gods” mean? Is that as opposed to domestic Canadian gods? Are they suing on behalf of Inuit deity or are they suggesting that Christianity is based on a North American-based deity?”


  9. One would think that people dense enough to take the Bible as literal would see no problem in comparing elephants to elephants even if one is a supposedly divine elephant and the other is just an elephant. It’s a perfect example of literal thinking from a decorator’s stand point.

    In all fairness, there is no display at any zoo I’ve ever been to of someone being crucified but if there were I’d have no problem with putting a big old cross on the building. And to steal Bill Hick’s joke, do you really think the first thing Jesus wants to see when he comes back is a cross? Isn’t that like showing Jackie O that you’re wearing a rifle pendant? “Just thinking of John, Jackie, just thinkin’ of John.”

    Enjoy your shiny new rope, snapperheads.

  10. I would agree that “a safe family environment” should be “free of religious icons and selective religious partiality.” Any place with religious icons is not a safe family environment.

  11. I don’t know to what extent this statue does or was intended to resemble a Hindu god. To my eye it looks simply like a playful Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus). Perhaps the zoo or the artist can enlighten us on that. However, if it is such a religious representation, I join with the protesting Christians.

    If this statue is removed for being “selective religious partiality” stemming from the protest, it might mean that Christians and other religious zealots are beginning to get the message that this kind of thing isn’t acceptable and we’ll all less of it inflicted on us.

    BTW, WTF does “foreign gods” mean? Is that as opposed to domestic Canadian gods? Are they suing on behalf of Inuit deity or are they suggesting that Christianity is based on a North American-based deity?

  12. I have nothing else to bitch about so I will find something. Oh yeah, I am going to complain about being hung with a new rope. Thats it.

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