FFRF stops religious misuse of government property

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has gotten a Florida religious theme park to halt its misappropriation of government property.

The Holy Land Experience, located in Orlando, painted a mural on a retaining wall that turns the corner from Interstate 4 in the direction of the religious amusement park. This interchange and retaining wall are government property that the Florida Department of Transportation maintains, and Holy Land sought no permits or permission to put up the mural.

The mural featured religious imagery, showing two angels—God’s agents—unrolling a scroll that signifies humankind. The message conveyed was that God created us all—an inescapably religious notion, says FFRF.

“Holy Land’s goal is to convert people to its particular brand of Christianity,” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to Florida public officials last November when FFRF was alerted to the mural by its local chapter, the Central Florida Freethought Community. “It cannot annex and deface government property to further that goal.” 

It is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment if governments enforce ordinances selectively. Treating religious signs differently than other messages also violates free speech rights, Seidel added.

FFRF has learned that the Holy Land Experience has finally painted over the mural in a neutral tan color, much to the relief of many residents. 

The Central Florida Freethought Community is particularly happy.

“We’re pleased the creation mural has finally been removed from a public wall,” says David Williamson, founder of the organization. “It is unfortunate that it was up for nearly 10 months before it was addressed, but the wall of separation between church and interstate has been restored thanks to the work of our local members and supporters, as well as FFRF’s intervention.”

Believers in the U.S. Constitution are delighted, too.

“We welcome the decision of Holy Land to voluntarily abide by our country’s Constitution and laws,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Religious institutions are not exempt from the laws of our land, and the amusment park cannot misuse public property to spread a religious message.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog organization with 23,000-plus members, including more than 1,000 individuals in Florida.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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