A scheme proposed by Iowa public officials to divert $100,000 in public tourist money to a Christian theme park and "passion play" is being protested by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
An Iowa mayor and county board representative are among the supporters of a proposal to seek $100,000 from Iowa's Community Attractions and Tourism fund to promote the "Promised Land Retreat" and its planned Passion Play performances "re-enacting the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ."
"If there is something which a public body should feel 'passionate' about, it should be protecting the separation of church and state," the Foundation wrote Michael Gartner, Chair of Vision Board Iowa, which administers the tourist dollars. The newly-created Board has not yet had the opportunity to consider the plan.
The Foundation pointed out that the Iowa State Constitution (Art. I, Sect. 18) strictly prohibits public "support [of] any place of worship" or "any preference . . . by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship."
Governmental bodies may not get into the religion business, the Foundation warned, and such illegal subsidy would result in a lawsuit which the state of Iowa would assuredly lose.
The Foundation also contacted "passion play" proponent David Aldridge, mayor of Newton, Iowa, who called the Christian theme park "an educational experience." The Foundation, in asking him to publicly withdraw his support, noted it would "truly be an educational experience" if he would read and revere the federal and state constitutions which he took an oath of office to support.