Creation Museum founder Ken Ham announced Thursday that a municipal bond offering has raised enough money to begin construction on the Ark Encounter project, estimated to cost about $73 million. Groundbreaking is planned for May and the ark is expected to be finished by the summer of 2016. Ham said a high-profile evolution debate he had with "Science Guy" Bill Nye on Feb. 4 helped boost support for the project. Nye said he was "heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky" after learning that the project would move forward. He said the ark would eventually draw more attention to the beliefs of Ham's ministry, which preaches that the Bible's creation story is a true account, and as a result, "voters and taxpayers in Kentucky will eventually see that this is not in their best interest."
Creation Museum Founder Ken Ham, who leads a creationist-focused ministry called Answers in Genesis, recently debated scientist Bill Nye on evolutionary biology. It apparently had an unintended consequence.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A Roman Catholic middle school in Montana recently fired a teacher for getting pregnant outside of marriage. Yesterday, Faithful America, a progressive social-justice group, delivered over 20,000 petition signatures to the Catholic diocese, urging officials to reconsider.
* The religious right movement tends to focus on hot-button social issues and the culture war, but McKay Coppins reports this week that young evangelicals hope to expand the movement's agenda to include human trafficking. Rebecca Harper, a 25-year-old associate at a Christian public relations firm, said, "I would absolutely say modern-day slavery is more important than the marriage issue."
* The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) announced this week it would "no longer allow American Atheists to sponsor a convention booth after previously granting them permission."
* The on-again, off-again investigation into Bob Jones University's handling of sexual abuse complaints is apparently back on again.
* A coach for the University of Connecticut football team who'd vowed to use his position to evangelize to student athletes has agreed to resign.
* And finally, remember this one? "A U.S. appeals court ordered YouTube on Wednesday to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violent riots in parts of the Middle East and death threats to the actors."