Not only is it not new, but it isn't expected to make it. Their attendance is so bad that they are on the verge of bankruptcy. They are trying to talk the state into giving them tax exempt status because they are religious based. I doubt that that state will fall for a trick like that, but you never know.
I actually found out about it from a newspaper article discussing just that although I assumed it was new since this was just coming up. A senate subcommitte has already passed a bill allowing them to get that tax exempt status and apparently no one in state govt is really against it either.
By JENNIFER LIBERTO, Times Staff Writer
Published April 6, 2006
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 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.
The line between church and state gets thinner all the time. I have a religous friend who went to it and was appalled at the bias in the park. (hmmm, sounds familiar). Apparently they quote scripture every chance they get to back up their view of the world. The Holy land itself was cheesey and it was offensive to her. She had been to Jeruselum, so I figured she knew what she was talking about.
I think there is a sign when you first walk in that says 'Here you leave the world of today and enter the worlds of fantasy, Our view of the past, and the future if the Bush administration has its way'.
When you hand over your cash there is probably a sign that says 'By purchasing a admission you agree to be assimulated.. resistance to us is futile'.
Growing older is manditory
Growing up is however, optional
The funny thing is now that I truly think about it, I remember my wife seeing a sign for that place when we were down there last and she actually asked if we could go. I think I had blocked that out of my memory.