The Philadelphia-based American Bible Society has announced its plan to build a $60 million attraction at the Independence Mall that would highlight the influence of the Scriptures to the American way of life.
The Faith & Liberty Discovery Center is scheduled to open in fall 2018, and it is expected to attract 250,000 visitors each year. The center will be located on the first floor of the Wells Fargo Building on 5th and Market Streets, according to the Philly Voice.
Mayor Jim Kenney, who was present during the announcement, said that the center will be "another great tourist attraction" at Independence Mall.
"In the city where William Penn chartered religious freedom, I am excited that the Faith & Liberty Discovery Center will help tell an overlooked story of our history," said Kenney.
American Bible Society President and CEO Roy Peterson said that the facility would fit naturally near the mall because America's founders relied on the values and ideas in the Bible when they crafted the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Kermit Roosevelt, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the great-great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, does not agree with Peterson's assertion.
"I'm not sure it's historically accurate to say the founders drew their thoughts from the Bible," said Roosevelt. "I don't think the U.S. Constitution reflects Christian ideals or doctrine. The Bible is not useful to interpret the Constitution," he added.
The American Bible Society, which has the largest collection of Bibles and written Scripture in the world, will feature some of its collection in the exhibit.
He noted that the center's proposed location does not pose any problem with the separation of church and state because the property is not part of Independence National Historical Park.
Local Projects, the company that created the software for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, has been selected to design the Bible center. SaylorGregg, a studio of JacobsWyper Architects of Philadelphia, will be leading the architectural design.
The center will be placed near other notable museums such as the Philadelphia History Museum, the National Constitution Center, the American Philosophical Society Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History, Independence Hall and the Museum of the American Revolution.