Under investigation: Passion Play removes activist group’s banner
The Christ of the Ozarks Statue, a Eureka Springs tourist attraction famous for its larger-than-life size, gained new notoriety Friday morning after activist group Indecline placed a banner reading “God Bless Abortions” across the statue’s 65-foot wingspan.
Kent Butler, director of operations for the Great Passion Play where the statue is located, said the banner was removed by 9:20 a.m. Friday, July 9. Carroll County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Maj. Jerry Williams said deputies responded to the Passion Play on Friday afternoon to get information for a report on criminal trespass.
“They are still looking into it,” Williams said. “If there was any kind of video, we’re still trying to get that.”
Butler said it was dangerous to remove the banner. It took a 65-foot bucket truck and three-man crew to take it down, he said.
“They had gallon buckets of water to weight the sides down,” Butler said. “Those operate like a sail and being hit in the face with a gallon of water can be very painful. Thankfully, no significant damage was done to the statue.”
In a press release sent Friday afternoon, representatives from Indecline state that the statue was the brainchild of Gerald K. Smith, “a religious activist and Nazi sympathizer … whose final dream was to give Jesus his own theme park, though we think it would have been better as a water park.” In Arkansas, the press release says, there is only one 65-foot statue of Jesus.
“There is also only one abortion clinic,” the release says. “No professional sports teams. Just a bunch of angry men with no outlets, writing outrageous laws about vaginas. It’s hard to see how ‘pro-life’ can be so myopic in its vision of what life is.”
The release says Jesus “would understand the concept of a difficult decision” and “supposedly had to make a few of them and understood sacrifice very intimately.” The Christ of the Ozarks is visible from miles away, the release says, so Indecline treated it like a billboard.
“We aren’t necessarily ‘pro-choice’ or ‘anti-life,’ those terms are double-speak,” the release says. “We just think abortion is a … miracle worth celebrating. It saves lives, but those lives are usually female.”
The release continues, “When people have strong beliefs about decisions that don’t affect them, those beliefs are worth questioning. We are just here to ask those questions. Perhaps they get us farther than beliefs.”
In an open letter posted on the Passion Play’s website on July 9, Passion Play staff writes that the drop cloth used for the banner will now be used for its mission trip program.
“You trespassed on our property and hung this drop cloth from the Christ of the Ozarks memorial statue and put your lives at risk as well as the people’s lives who took it down,” the letter reads. “You used our statue to further your platform, but we are thankful for the opportunity to share our mission.”
Butler said he was relieved to remove the banner in time for the weekend, when the Passion Play expected up to 1,500 visitors to the statue.
“It’s always a challenge out here, but ultimately we will keep improving the property and doing what we do: sharing hope, love and peace,” Butler said.