- Photo taken from www.ArkEncounter.com. Used by permission.
A city in Kentucky is working with Crosswater Canyon, an owned subsidiary of Answers in Genesis, Inc., to offer $62 million in securities for prospective investors to help aid the completion of a Creationist theme park and replica of Noah's Ark. While the city of Williamstown is issuing the bond, Crosswalk Canyon is solely responsible for the bonds, not the city.
Beginning next month, Williamstown may oversee the amount of taxable securities for investors to the project overseen by Answers in Genesis, reported Brian Chappatta and Priya Anand of Business Week.
"Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park called 'Ark Encounter.' Bond documents project the venue will attract at least 1.2 million people in its first year," wrote Chappatta and Anand.
"Investors who buy $100,000 of the taxable securities will get a lifetime family pass, bond documents show."
Mark Looy, chief communications officer for Answers in Genesis, told The Christian Post that since the "bond offering" is offered through rather than by the city, Williamstown "is not at financial risk."
"We are currently in the early days of the marketing period with respect to the bonds and are thus far pleased with the reception they have received in the market," said Looy.
"We believe all material information regarding the issue is set forth in the Preliminary Official Statement. Potential investors and others should refer to that document for information regarding the offering."
Kentucky is no stranger to large-scale Answers in Genesis projects. At present, the Creation Museum in Petersburg has been in operation since May 2007.
Unlike the Creation Museum, the Ark Encounter project has had its share of financial issues regarding funding and donations.
The official ground-breaking for the project has been delayed multiple times since 2011, with private donations not matching the necessary monetary benchmarks.
Mike Zovath, head of the Ark Encounter project, told The Christian Post about the current status of the park's construction, namely that it is "under design."
"The Ark itself, phase one, architectural designs is about 75-85 percent complete. The site work has been…completed." said Zovath.
"We're waiting on permits and state and federal permits in which we expect to have in hand by the end of March. So we should be ready to begin construction by the end of March if all the funding goes according to plan."
Answers in Genesis' efforts in Kentucky have garnered their share of criticism, including from the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In the past Americans United has criticized the alleged First Amendment issues with regards to the state support for projects that benefit the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director at Americans United, told The Christian Post that the bond offering is one of many examples of government aid proposed for the Ark Encounter project.
"The imminent bond offering is only one of several different kinds of aid being given to the Ark Park by the State of Kentucky, Grant County, and the City of Williamstown," said Luchenitser.
"The array of government aid to the Ark Park raises very serious issues under the religion clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the even stricter church-state prohibitions of the Kentucky Constitution."
When asked by CP about the church and state issues with Williamstown's effort, Looy responded that "the city of Williamstown is not the obligor and the bonds are taxable bonds."
"This display of history is just as relevant to society as any other type of historical display, whether it's the history of civilization, military history, the history of art, or any other cultural or historical display," said Looy.
"We believe it would, in fact, be illegal and unethical for a governmental agency to engage in viewpoint or religious discrimination against the Ark Encounter LLC simply because the content of this theme park happens to focus on biblical history."