According to The Orlando Sentinel, Marvin Rosenthal, founder of The Holy Land Experience (HLE) in Orlando, Fla., said charismatics need not apply for any positions at the attraction, including selling hot dogs at its restaurant. Prospective employees must sign a Christian "doctrinal statement" of belief -- which excludes charismatics and Pentecostals - to work at the $16 million, 15-acre "living biblical museum."
The attraction near Universal Studios hit the headlines last month, when rabbinical leaders criticized HLE's concept and plan to proselytize Jews.
Rosenthal, a convert to Christianity from Judaism who is now an independent, evangelical Baptist minister, has admitted that he hopes to use profits generated by the park to fund his Zion's Hope missionary organization, which targets Jews for conversion.
However, he defended the park's mission against Jewish criticism. He now says that hiring charismatics would be "hypocritical." "We are not charismatics," he told the Sentinel. "We love them. We appreciate them. But we would not offer them a job."
Evangelical and fundamentalist Baptists are often at odds with charismatics and Pentecostals over points of Christian theology, including whether manifestations of the Holy Spirit known as "signs and wonders" -- including talking in tongues and hands-on healing favored by charismatics and Pentecostals -- are scripturally approved for modern times.
However Gregg Halteman, HLE's director of marketing and public relations, said the park already employs some charismatics. Rosenthal told the Charisma News Service (CNS) that current charismatic employees will not be terminated. "No one will lose his or her job," he said.
Whitten, however, told CNS that he was not planning to ask his 6,000 members not to visit the attraction, as had been reported. "What I said was I am not going to raise this issue to my people," Whitten said Friday. "I have no plans to advocate a boycott of the theme park."
Despite the latest controversy, business at the park is booming. According to the Sentinel, HLE reaches its 1,200 capacity almost daily, often by noon. Rosenthal said charismatics and any paying customers were welcome. "We welcome everybody," Rosenthal told the newspaper.
HLE has a policy against "disruptive behavior" for the park's visitors, however, that Halteman said could include exuberant forms of worship, such as speaking in tongues. "The policy is pretty standard for a public facility," he said. "We're not targeting people from exercising their spiritual gifts. It could just be a 5-year-old trying to climb up on top of a tomb. We want to make sure folks don't do things that make people wish they were somewhere else."
Halteman said he thought Rosenthal's remarks had been overemphasized. "I don't know if I would term this as a black eye for us," he said "Some Christians just believe one way and some another. We serve the same God. When you really boil it all down, that really is the important issue."