Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Ark Encounter" Junk Bonds

Back in June I covered financial problems at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Declining attendance forced the museum to put its proposed "Ark Encounter" exhibit, which was set to include a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark, on hold. However, the project is not quite dead yet. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, the group that developed and runs the Creation Museum, is now trying to sell bonds to raise the funds he needs to build his Ark.

The ark must “stand as a warning of coming judgment—to condemn those who reject God’s clear Word.” Gays, scientists, and liberals: Consider yourselves on notice. According to Ham, our current era of sin may soon be flooded by another cataclysm of divine punishment. When it arrives, those who “encounter ... God’s Word” (young-earth creationists, as long as they aren’t gay) will travel through the “door of the ‘Ark’ ” to “the Lord Jesus.” Those who don’t will go to Hell—a doomsday rapture Ham feverishly anticipates.

There’s just one problem. Before Ham can usher in a new era of mass destruction “to separate and to purify those who believe in Him from those who don’t,” as he wrote in his newsletter to supporters, he’ll need to actually build his ark—and three years after first announcing the project, he hasn’t even broken ground. The project’s first phase will require $73 million in total, and $24 million just to commence construction. (The state of Kentucky generously offered to toss in $37.5 million worth of tax breaks, though those will expire in 2014.) The next phases will require $52.6 million. Thus far, Answers in Genesis has raised $13.6 million—just 10 percent of an optimistic estimate of the total cost.

In order to make up that shortfall, Answers in Genesis will have to sell a lot of bonds. And at first, the bonds look like ordinary investment vehicles with a decent rate of return, between 5 and 6 percent. However, the fine print pretty much renders that moot.

Tempting as those rates may seem, there’s a small catch. As Answers in Genesis readily admits, the bonds “are not expected to have any substantial secondary market” and are “not an obligation of AiG.” Somewhat alarmingly, the bonds are unrated, an indication that they’re extremely risky—and almost impossible to resell. High risk, higher yield: These, in essence, are creationist junk bonds.

It's the second point that would send me running for the hills. The bonds are "not an obligation of AiG?" In other words, we'll give you this rate of return as long as we feel like paying you. And let's face it - as yesterday's post highlighted, how many evangelicals ever willingly part with money? There's always some other need that has higher priority, like say, installing gold-plated toilets in the private jet that God really, really wants you to own.

These aren't even real junk bonds, folks. Junk bonds are high-risk, high-return. These are high-risk, no return. Hopefully people will realize that and refuse to fall for this scam.

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Nerd said...

Well as a Packers stock owner, I must say, one shouldn't turn your back on the opportunity if it's something you believe in!

I'd like to know however, where it says in the Bible that if you believe in "Creationism" you'll get to go to heaven!

I always thought that it was based on "Faith in Christ." Maybe this is a completely new religion.

Scott Stenwick said...

That's true, but the point is that these are being pitched as legitimate investment vehicles when they clearly are not.

Young-Earth Creationists are an odd bunch. On the one hand they insist that a literal reading of the Bible is the only true path, but on the other they ignore all the contradictions in the Genesis narrative.

The whole connection between Noah's Ark and Jesus is pretty tenuous as well. Those stories are thousands of years apart, even for those who contend that the Ark story is real history.