The owner of the Great Passion Play is organizing an effort to reclaim Eureka Springs for people like him as a reaction to the City Council’s adoption of a non-discrimination ordinance that protest gay people, among others.
Randall Christy, who head a Gospel radio network that now owns the outdoor theater operation that features the Christ of the Ozarks statue, sent the following e-mail this week:
Christians in and around Eureka Springs:
you are invited to attend a special meeting TOMORROW (Friday March 6th) at noon at the First Christian Church to discuss the issues surrounding the recent Chamber of Commerce and City Council actions. Hope you can attend. We have a plan. We need all Christians to unite….let’s take back this city.
The Passion Play, my tipster noted, has long been influential in the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, which stirred an angry fuss and the ouster of leadership by the board after the chamber issued a statement questioning the ordinance. An effort to overturn the lawyer was begun by a Fayetteville lawyer who fought that city’s civil rights ordinance.
My tipster notes that the Passion Play and the First Christian Church, both part of a meeting aimed at “taking back” the city, are not within Eureka Springs city limits.
The City Council has referred the ordinance to a vote May 12. The Council seized the initiative so that opponents couldn’t shape the ballot question in a way favorable to their cause,.
This is only the latest in a long-simmering tension. The Great Passion Play, which has struggled financially in recent years and solicits contributions to operate, has blamed its woes in part on the success Eureka Springs has had as building itself as a destination for gay vacationers (and residents and business people). The city’s domestic partnership registry and gay pride activities have produced important commerce for the city, though perhaps not for the Passion Play, a project begun in 1968 by Gerald L.K. Smith, a controversial anti-Semitic politician. History here from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
UPDATE: A website that posts comments about Eureka contained this post on the meeting today:
The meeting was not closed. I walked in unmolested, unquestioned.
Christy introduced himself to me, then moved on to shake hands with others.
There was nothing there that you haven’t heard before. They want to bring “Christian values” and “family values” back to Eureka. They want people to register to vote.
One thing that struck me; when Christy asked how many people in attendance live in the city of Eureka Springs, 5, maybe 6 raised their hands. I counted 36 people in attendance. So, if that is accurate (and who knows if it is or isn’t) that would mean most of the people there have no vote on this anyway. But they would be “encouraged to witness” to city dwellers who CAN vote.
But they don’t hate gay people, because, you know, “some of my best friends are gay”. If I heard that once, I heard it 14 times.