Skip to comments.Florida Court Grants "The Holy Land Experience" Tax-Exempt Status
Posted on 07/11/2005 10:21:26 AM PDT by dukeman
Orlando, FL - Florida Circuit Judge Cynthia MacKinnon issued an 18-page ruling in which she found that The Holy Land Experience is exempt from property taxes. The court order found that Orange County, Florida violated state law and due process rights when county official assessed the religious ministry with property taxes beginning in 2001. A lawsuit was filed against the County on November 19, 2001 by the American Center for Law and Justice and Liberty Counsel, which represent The Holy Land Experience.
Zions Hope, Inc. a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) religious, educational and charitable ministry operates The Holy Land Experience, a living Biblical museum that conveys its religious message through teaching, preaching, dramatic enactments, special music and performances, and multimedia presentations. The Biblical museum contains a walk-through replica of the Holy Land, including a towering Temple. The Scriptorium houses ancient Biblical manuscripts. Zions Hope is recognized as tax exempt by the IRS and as an exempt religious institution by the Florida Department of Revenue. Rev. Marvin J. Rosentahl is the President and Chief Executive Officer. The Holy Land Experience is located off of Interstate 4 in Orlando, Florida.
While Orange County approved a request for tax exemption for part of the property, it denied tax exemption for other portions. Although there is an admission fee, the museum-like setting is part of the religious mission and ministry of Zions Hope. The fee does not cover all of the expenses, and if there is an overage, the excess would go back into the religious ministry. The tour guides offer biblical instruction and insight to the public. The taxes, amounting to several hundred thousand dollars annually, have been accumulating since 2001. Had The Holy Land Experience lost this challenge, the financial impact may have caused the ministry to close.
The Circuit Court ruled that The Holy Land Experience is exempt from ad valorem taxation because the property is used predominately for religious purposes and not for a profit-making purpose. The Court also rule that the Orange County Property Appraiser violated procedural due process by failing to set forth the reason for denying the tax exemption in the notice as required by Florida law.
Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated, "The government treads on thin ice when it bifurcates a ministry into what it considers secular and religious activities. The County exempts secular museums. It therefore cannot refuse to exempt a religious museum. Every aspect of The Holy Land Experience is part and parcel of the religious ministry. The government may not make doctrinal decisions by determining some aspects are central to the religious ministry and some are not. The First Amendment prohibits governmental gerrymandering."
You can view The Holy Land Experience at www.theholylandexperience.com.
I'm a Christian and that place creeps me out.
Boy, it would be a public use for Orlando to take this land and build a few rollercoasters on it so they could at least realize some tax revenue.
Of course, the same thing could be said of my church and my town. Or your church and your town.
Thanks to Justice Souter and the others.
Well, surprise surprise. A decent ruling from a Floriduh court.
That being said, though the court actually followed the law in this case, it is time to revoke all tax exemtions for churches and religious institutions other than those providing relief charity. Church is big business in America. They should pay.
Have you been there to see? My understanding is that the place operates from the messianic Jewish perspective by showing how Christ is pointed to by the Hebrew Scriptures. Granted, I haven't seen this particular presentation, but, as a Christian, I love that stuff.
The Terrifying Tower of Babel-"Go ahead and scream, no one can understand you!"
The Noah's Ark Boat Ride-"Load two at a time people, two by two!"
Be sure to call ahead for lodging though, there's never any room at the Inn.
Never been inside - saw it from the outside and also some video on it on a what-to-do-in-central-FL info channel at a hotel. It just seemed weird.
Har har :-)
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