Great Passion Play CEO says anti-discrimination law is bad

The CEO of The Great Passion Play in northwest Arkansas says an anti-discrimination law in Eureka Springs is bad and should be repealed.

The law to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations was passed Feb. 9 after being added to the City Council agenda after the meeting started.

Randall Christy, chief executive of the play which depicts the final week of the life of Jesus, and the president of The Gospel Station, a Christian radio network based in Ada, Oklahoma , told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette that the city would be better off by simply saying "We oppose discrimination." Christy also said businesses that conduct religious ceremonies and wedding service providers should be exempt from the law.

Christy held a "take back this city" rally on Friday where he told a crowd of about 45 that he wanted Christians to become more involved in business and government in Eureka Springs, but when he asked how many in the crowd live within the city's limits only about five raised their hands.

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Alderman James DeVito said the "take back this city" theme is divisive.

"Nobody has owned Eureka Springs since the day it was founded," DeVito said. "I feel it draws a line in the sand. I feel it pits one side against the other. It creates a warlike atmosphere. I don't feel things need to come to that. It's a good catchphrase, but it creates ill will."

Christy, during the meeting, said he didn't mind the "push back" he's gotten for the theme.

"What I meant was every city needs Jesus Christ," Christy told the crowd. "It means spiritually let's share Jesus with everybody in Eureka Springs."

After a group formed to collect signatures for a vote to repeal the ordinance, the City Council approved a May 12 special election on the issue.

The City Council approved the ordinance before a new state law banning local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation or gender identity goes into effect. The state law passed in February, but does not go into effect until 90 days after the current legislative session ends.

Until then, Eureka Springs' ordinance is city law, said Mayor Robert Berry.

"It will stay on the books, so when the courts rule that (the state law) is unconstitutional, it will still be in effect," Berry said.

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