Get ready to join the Church of Mickey

I have no commentary on this. I'm just disgusted. I should run for office here. Fuckin' Florida!

"A biblical theme park in Orlando where guests pay $30 admission to munch on "Goliath" burgers and explore reproductions of 2000-year-old tombs and temples could get a property tax exemption written into state law.

A Senate committee easily passed a bill that would grant theme parks "used to exhibit, illustrate, and interpret biblical manuscripts ... " an exemption from local property taxes, like churches, even though the parks charge money.

The legislation is designed to resolve a tax dispute between Holy Land Experience and the Orange County property appraiser, but legislative staffers say the exemption could encourage the development of other parks to take advantage of the tax break.

The 15-acre Orlando park recently won its challenge against Orange County, which has appealed the case. The nonprofit, which would owe about $300,000 in property taxes each year, argued that the park helps finance its Christian ministry.

But the property appraiser argues the nonprofit should pay taxes on the money-producing park, just like Disney World or Universal Orlando, with its pricey tickets and $5 parking fees."

"Calls to Holy Land Experience were not returned.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, says the bill really only applies to Holy Land Experience and said it would be difficult for another park to meet the "stiffly worded" criteria.

Yet, when a Pensacola park dedicated to creationism learned of the Webster bill Tuesday it promptly sent an emissary to Webster's office to find out how it could qualify for the same tax break.

Dinosaur Adventure Land, devoted to demonstrating that the Bible proves dinosaurs and humans coexisted, displays pages from ancient Bibles and "biblical accounts of dinosaurs," said Creation Science Evangelism founder Kent Hovind, who also goes by "Dr. Dino."

Dinosaur Adventure Land is a nonprofit but is organized under a different section of the IRS code than Holy Land Experience. A director with Creation Science Evangelism said the group won't change its IRS designation, but will see about getting the Webster bill tweaked to include it too.

So far, there doesn't appear to be any organized opposition to the bill, which sailed through a Senate committee Tuesday with no debate. The bill has a House companion, which has yet to be heard in a committee.

Calls to theme park competitors Disney World and Busch Gardens befuddled spokesmen who said they hadn't heard of the bill.

However, Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan said the bill smacks of tax abuse and wondered if it was discriminatory.

"There are churches out there that have bookstores and sell some Bibles and that's not what this is about, this is a theme park that charges $30 admission," said Donegan, who had been to the park. "This bill is taking a special interest and granting it an exemption in the state of Florida."

Two legal scholars said the bill probably could pass constitutional muster, despite its appearance of giving Legislative preference to the Bible and Christianity, as opposed to other religions.

"I'd give it a better than 50 percent chance (of surviving a challenge), but in the legal climate we're in, I wouldn't give it much more than that," said constitutional law professor Thomas C. Marks Jr. of Stetson University College of Law, who noted a plethora of recent lawsuits challenging the intermingling of church and state issues.

Florida's Constitution gives the Legislature broad authority to make all sorts of tax exemptions for "educational, literary, scientific, religious or charitable purposes."

So lawmakers could also carve out specific property tax exemptions for theme parks that display the Torah, the Vedas or the Koran.

And the director of Dinosaur World Adventure thinks they should.

"I think it should be a little more broad in scope and not even limit it to Christians," said Glen Stoll, director of ministries and property for Creation Science Evangelism. "That seems a little discriminatory."

Last week, when members of a tax revenue estimating conference took up Webster's bill, they discussed whether the legislation might encourage more biblical theme parks and drew up an analysis that estimated the law's "middle" impact could cost as much as $4.8-million a year.

After 10 minutes of discussion, they settled on saying the impact could not be determined, since they didn't know how many biblical theme parks exist now or how many might follow such a tax incentive."

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