Controversial televangelist Morris Cerullo is set to join the ranks of Christian real estate entrepreneurs with a Christian-themed resort in San Diego, California.
It will also house Cerullo's new ministry headquarters and a biblical museum.
It's the latter that Cerullo's ministry is pinning his hopes on in his attempt to attract up to 400,000 visitors a year. The attraction – which still needs city council approval – will feature underground passages reminiscent of ancient Rome, a 20-foot tall replica of Jerusalem's Western Wall, and a cinema with motion seats and sensory effects simulating wind, snow and fog. The biblical museum will contain Judeo-Christian artefacts.
Jim Penner, executive director of the Morris Cerullo Legacy Center, told the San Diego Union-Tribune: "This idea of themed entertainment is going to start reaching into all kinds of fingers – in museums, the waterfront, and you need a lot of touchy feely technology. It's a business model. It's just based around religious themes rather than secular themes.
"We're not trying to cover up the fact that it's religious in nature. We're just creating it in a way that's very attraction-oriented."
If the idea sounds more Disney than Deuteronomy, that's deliberate – Cerullo has hired Visioneering Studios, whose bosses are ex-Disney employees, to bring the project to life.
While the project – based on an existing resort in Mission Valley – can't be described as lacking in ambition, it may face an uphill struggle to become a mainstream destination. The Union-Tribune quotes Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider, who says: "History has shown with these kinds of projects that they don't really break out beyond the evangelical Christian market. People's fear of proselytizing overrides whatever technology they can throw at you. If you feel there may even be a mild sell, they won't come."
Other Christian theme parks include the Holy Land Experience in Orlanda, Florida, that "takes you 7000 miles away and 2000 years back in time to the land of the Bible", Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Cincinatti, Ohio, and the Ark Encounter set to open in July in Kentucky and also a Ken Ham project.
While attendance at US theme parks is growing, Cerullo's venture will struggle to compete with the biggest names in the business. Disney's Magic Kingdom attracts more than 18 million visitors a year and has more than 60,000 cast members.
Cerullo's ministry is based around his claims to be able to perform miraculous healings, none of which have been substantiated by doctors.