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Orlando Theme Park Slips One Past Florida Tax Authorities
October 5, 2010 11:43 AM
GODLINESS IS NEXT TO TAX BREAKS
Today is the Holy Land Experience annual "free day," which is expected to attract thousands of delighted visitors.
But, naturally, there's a catch.
The Trinity Broadcasting Network-owned Orlando, Florida theme park, which "takes you 7000 miles away and 2000 years back in time to the land of the Bible," is required by state law to offer one day of complimentary admission to maintain its property tax exemption as a religious entity.
Larry Amos and his wife Rosa, who live in the area, decided to make their first pilgrimage to the park after seeing the free day mentioned on television.
A spiritual journey for the Amos'?
Um, well, sort of, kinda.
"I said to my wife, 'What the heck? It's a nice day,'" Mr. Amos told the Orlando Sentinel.
Jose Torres, who had never visited the park before, had a slightly deeper reason for attending.
"We wanted to see stuff about God," he said.
And see "stuff about God," Torres will.
Visitors can meet "Jesus" (played by former airplane mechanic Les Cheveldayoff), who is crucified every afternoon:
Hungry park-goers cannot partake in loaves and fishes, but are invited to stop by "Simeon’s Corner, located at the crossroads across from the Qumran Caves" for a "steaming foot-long hot dog or a giant flavored pretzel."
And the little ones can even take home an official Holy Land Experience Roman soldier shield, complete with the Holy Land Experience logo:
"As real places get dangerous the way Jerusalem has, one compromise between real and virtual reality is this place that’s in-between," explained John Stilgoe, an architectural historian at Harvard, to the Chicago Sun-Times.
However, Cheveldayoff, er, Jesus, doesn't see anything "in-between" about it.
"When we’re out there, though, we’re kicking it 150%," he told the Palm Beach Post. "It has to be real. It can’t be fake."
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