ORLANDO (CBS Tampa) — To anyone planning a pilgrimage to Orlando, today’s the day.
The Holy Land Experience, a theme park with a Christian mission, is offering free admission today only as required by Florida law.
Among its attractions are Christus Gardens, a $12 million Scriptorium, a Jerusalem street market and Calvary’s Garden Tomb.
Its website advertises free parking as well.
The Holy Land opened its doors ten years ago and gained tax-exempt status as a religious institution in what many remember as a “tax battle of biblical proportions.“
One side pointed to its ownership, a religious organization called Zion’s Hope, with its collection of biblical artifacts and its mission statement that the property is a religious museum. The other cited its $30 tickets and the fact that it was constructed by the same firm that built Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure.
According to Florida Statutes, “the property appraiser may deny a religious organization tax-exempt status in one of three instances: if the use is not clear, the land is being held for speculative purposes or if the organization is renting the land to others for a nonreligious purpose.”
The Holy Land was ruled legitimate, and the $12.5 million property saves roughly $300,000 per year in Orange County taxes, according to tax appraiser records.
A statute passed by the Florida Legislature shortly after the theme park controversy aimed to clarify the concept of religious use and mandated that properties like Holy Land Experience must offer at least one day’s admission free of charge.
Free admission to the park will come on a first-come, first-serve basis, as it has a capacity of 2,000 people. The park will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.