More than $5,000 in Florida tax money went to sponsor a Christian concert, according to a report by The St. Petersburg Times.
Hernando County’s tourism bureau footed the bill for the Christian concert, which was part of Freedom Fest, a faith-based event held on July 4. More than 15,000 people attended the gathering put on by Brooksville Ministerial Association. The Tourist Development Council (TDC) already agreed to spend another $5,000 for next year’s festival.
In defense of taxpayer support for the event, Joe Santerelli, president of the Brooksville Ministerial Association and senior pastor at Hillside Community Baptist Church, said that America’s governing documents were written by Christians, the country was founded by Christians and most of the county’s residents are Christians.
“Would you really want a complete separation of church and state?” he asked the Times.
According to the report, members of the county’s TDC never even questioned whether giving public dollars to advocate a specific religious belief violated the Constitution.
“I don’t think anyone viewed it as a Christian event. We viewed it as a tourist event,” County Commission Chairman Chris Kingsley told the Times. Kingsley heads the TDC.
The county’s finance director told the newspaper that “if the board determines in a public forum that an expenditure is a public purpose, then it is a legal expenditure.”