A proposed statue for the Overland Park Arboretum has city officials asking a lot of questions.
The controversy is about a proposal of a bronze statue of Confucius, the worldly figure that is about living in harmony with one another, and teachings and beliefs that are rooted in the Chinese culture.
Confucius and seven other statues that would make their way into the international sculpture garden at the arboretum are now the focus of the Overland Park city council.
The Confucius statue stands 7 feet and is in a robe sitting with his hands cupped together.
"My feel is the Midwest needs more international culture to start and to improve, and this is why I want to promote here and not on the coastal city," international sculpting artist Kwan Wu said.
Overland Park spokesman Sean Reilly said there is a question whether Confucianism is a religion.
"The legal staff has been asked to look into that because there is a question whether it is appropriate to have religious symbols on government property," Reilly said.
According to a professor with the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Kansas, Confucius is a man that is looked at more as a worldly figure than anything spiritual.
Overland Park city councilman David White raised the initial concern. He said he didn't want to unintentionally violate the law.
"What we want to do is go in with our eyes wide open and make our decision knowing where we are," White said.
White said he found there was a division of opinion whether or not Confucius was merely a philosopher or religious figure.
"If Confucius is purely a philosopher, then that is one thing. If he can be considered a religious figure, to me, that throws it into another venue, and that is something we need to look at before we agreed to accept the statue for display," White said.
Overland Park's lawyers are reviewing the statue, the history of Confucius and how it is viewed throughout the world.
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