April 6, 2006
Experience the miracle of tax evasion:
TALLAHASSEE – 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 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.
… 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.
… 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.”
In other words: holy crap.
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