Another Former Creation Museum Staffer Speaks Out About Ken Ham’s Toxic Empire

Another Former Creation Museum Staffer Speaks Out About Ken Ham’s Toxic Empire

The Friendly Atheist writes:

Last summer, a former employee of the Creation Museum, Ariella Duran, explained the “toxic culture” of that work environment in a lengthy Facebook post.   She worked for Answers in Genesis for just over two years in “every single existing department,” finally leaving in 2017 for a variety of professional and personal reasons. She wrote about how she “witnessed rank partiality and favoritism, nepotism, inconsistent or non-existent communication, bullying, and spiritual abuse,” adding that Ken Ham had “built his legacy on the bones of employees he has knowingly driven into the ground.”

He goes on to say:

And now another former employee is speaking out about similar treatment.

Back in March, Leah Jessie wrote about how she began working at the Creation Museum in 2016 as a seasonal employee. She eventually left in December of 2019, when she was a “technically full time employee.” She wanted the job specifically because she grew up on Ham’s books and content and was excited to join a Christian ministry. While there were plenty of good memories from her time there, she pointed out a number of concerns…

Among the concerns she lists are:

  1. workmates who experienced dishonesty, bullying, overwork, illegal discrimination, harassment, and blackmailing…
  2. most employees who work on Sundays are unable to attend church, which forces hypocrisy because they are required upon hire to sign a statement promising to faithfully and regularly attend church.
  3. When her car broke down a fellow employee gave her a ride… and got in trouble because he was a man alone with a women…
  4. Another employee got in trouble for commenting on Ariella Duran’s Facebook post saying “I’m so sorry this happened… I’m praying for you.” That person was later reprimanded by AiG for commenting on the post.

All this finally prompted Leah Jesse to write:

“While there are some Christians who work at AiG, I do not consider it to be a Christian organisation.”

And:

One last point she mentions: Some people responded to her Facebook post negatively, saying it reflected poorly on Christianity. But Leah says — rightly, I would argue — that “it’s the mistreatment and abuse that brings a bad name on Christianity, not someone talking about it.”

A couple of things I’m going to note here.  One is that I’m not surprised to hear this.  The type of fundamentalist authoritarianism that Ham apparently subscribes to breeds just this type of abusive, toxic religion.  I’ve experienced it – and that is what started my journey out of evangelicalism – and a number of Imonk readers have testified to the same thing. Two, is that this is so often what happens when your deeply held beliefs devolve into ideology.  The behavior is not isolated to religious fundamentalism – really it’s a human failing.

But I’d like to focus on Leah Jesse’s final point:

One last point she mentions: Some people responded to her Facebook post negatively, saying it reflected poorly on Christianity. But Leah says — rightly, I would argue — that “it’s the mistreatment and abuse that brings a bad name on Christianity, not someone talking about it.”

Some have criticized Internet Monk for focusing on the failures of evangelicalism saying the same thing: that we reflect poorly on Christianity.  But as she notes, it’s the failure to talk about it, to reveal the flaws, that brings the bad name and causes the name of Christ to be blasphemed.  It’s to our shame it takes an atheist to point that out.

 

60 thoughts on “Another Former Creation Museum Staffer Speaks Out About Ken Ham’s Toxic Empire

  1. Which commenter was this?
    Wondering if it might be a familiar name or a one-time troll.

    Whoever he/she/whatever was, they sound like they were quoting chapter-and-verse from Ken Ham press releases.

    Ken Ham and YEC are also getting lots of mention on skeptical YouTube channels I frequent like “Trey the Explainer”.

    Like

  2. Sunk Cost Fallacy, like a successful swindle.
    It’s not the money, it’s Emotional Identity and Investment, ramped up to Cosmic Importance. If any crack appears in the fragile belief system (YEC in this case), it could collapse catastrophically. And the Believer can not only lose all the emotional investment he’s put in over the years, but His Eternal Salvation. So he will Double Down and SCREAM LOUDER! LOUDER! LOUDER!

    This is the same dynamic as when victims of a con man fanatically defend the con man and his swindle; because admitting they got taken by a grifter would be too emotionally devastating. And they would lose EVERYTHING.

    Like

  3. An incident that split out some of us with people we thought of as friends. A second tier pastor lied/misled about a serious incident at the church I was attending. Someone in our small group was a friend of his. There was hard evidence of the issue. A recording of a meeting.

    The person in our small group said (on his way out of our group) “I don’t care what evidence you have, I know Xxxx and I know he would never do that.”

    Like

  4. I’m one of those people who don’t want to hear that he may have been a fraud. I’ve greatly enjoyed his preaching and thought he was one of the good guys. So it is very disheartening. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear the truth. I would think most people wouldn’t want to hear that someone they highly regarded is actually a fraud. It is just another reminder that everyone is capable of anything, and that my faith should never depend upon a person other than Jesus.

    Like

  5. Absolutely. Especially when the Bible makes it clear that God is VERY concerned about how employers treat their employees.

    Like

  6. Shouldn’t an organization that claims to be spreading the Gospel be better than the rest of the world? Or at leas strive to be so?

    Like

  7. I note that one of the commenters praised the project’s private financing and predicted great local job growth and 1.6 million annual visitors. Too bad there’s no way to contact him, there’s some piping hot crow here ready to be eaten…

    Like

  8. Even worse, the “once for all” model of repentance/Salvation and “instant perfection” model of Immediate Total Sanctification. At that point, you have to Pretend 100% of the time because you’re the only one who’s not Perfect and the fear that all the other Saved will turn on you if you show any visible imperfection or impiety. (JM Jones on the blog list has written/blogged extensively on this kind of unrealistic expectations in Christianes culture.) It’s not just chickens who peck defectives to death in the barnyard.

    Like

  9. I observed the same during my time in-country.
    (Then it was Fear of Nuclear Armageddon (in both senses of the words) and Being Left Behind. A Fear whose fruits were Paralysis and Despair.)

    Lots of Fear and Guilt Manipulation there.

    “FEAR ALWAYS WORKS!”
    — Acting Mayor Bellweather, Zootopia

    Like

  10. Note Prayer AND Action.
    Too many Christians do the first and ignore the second.
    To the point where “praying for you” has become Christianese for doing nothing while feeling pious about it.

    “You have a saying: ‘I’ll Pray About It’.
    We too have a saying: ‘PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS!'”
    — paraphrase of a famous line from Babylon-5

    Because talk is cheap and words must be backed up with actions.
    Even a small action (because of limited resources) is better than no action.

    Like

  11. No, they actually read it (and memorize it — QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!) — but only so they can look for loopholes to get away with What I Wanna. And Weaponize it against everyone else.

    Holy Book as Party Line and Jusfification; Godliness to the point everything human gets snuffed out — Reminds me of Wahabi/Salafi Islam more than anything else. Rigid, Unforgiving, Merciless RIGHTeousness.

    And like any Ideologues, One-Upmanship on who is the most Pure.

    “Evil seems to be the side most obsessed with Purity.”
    — comment from a thread several months ago

    Like

  12. I gave pictures and stories for all the guesses! Unfortunately there were not that many guesses.

    Mike

    Like

  13. The Holy Land Experience is still alive and well. It is now owned by Trinity Broadcasting Network. If anyone knew how to hawk the christian experience, it was Paul and Jan Crouch.

    Like

  14. I would be interested in knowing if this is worse (or better) than the number of disgruntled ex-employees at similarly sized organizations.

    There is a lot I don’t like about Ken Ham, but I want to be fair and objective here.

    Like

  15. Indoctrination of children is expensive.
    That’s what the Ark is for.
    Big engineered things are impressive, they convey legitimacy; the arguments within don’t really matter, the effect is achieved.

    Like

  16. Ken Ham in Kentucky.
    Foxconn in Wisconsin.
    Dan Gilbert in Detroit.
    Raiders stadium in Las Vegas
    Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners in Chicago.

    These are bad deals; the people get cheated pretty regularly.

    Let’s stop making them – for anyone.

    Like

  17. And I suspect that Nehemiah’s “reforms” were the actual subject of Malachi’s withering critique.

    Like

  18. > Is it, though? I know that’s a common go-to response for trying

    Agree. “It’s the money” does not work as an explanation. There is clearly something else in play.

    Like

  19. AiG exists because YEC types think their view is the right one, full stop

    Overly simplifying it. Our church group (class/small group/whatever) did an 8 week discussion on YEC/OEC.[1] It literally split the group in half. And caused the church hierarchy to come out and make it clear this WAS/IS a YEC church. (But this was not made clear anywhere at all until we poked the bear.)

    Anyway, most all of the YEC crowd felt that if the Bible was not literally true in every word then nothing about Christianity could be true.[2] So to be a Christian they had to be YEC. When then takes them down the path of either 99.99999% of the scientists are in an anti-Christian conspiracy or just wrong.

    And if you go with the conspiracy position then why believe anything that the experts say which gets us to the current situation in our country.

    And yes, I’ve seen how this can lead to all kinds of abuse in so many areas of life. So this IM article doesn’t surprise me.

    [1] I told the lady setting it up this would not go well. She came back at me that we are all reasonable people and can discuss things thoughtfully. She now says I was soooooooo right. In some ways I wish I had been wrong.

    [2] Yes I know there are some inconsistencies that can’t be waved away but that just doesn’t matter to them. If only I was smart enough to see the truth.

    Like

  20. it’s all about the money

    Overly simplistic.

    Ego / power. Money just falls out of this for many/most of them.

    Like

  21. Amen.

    I’ve been studying Nehemiah lately and find him a fascinating leader. He is NOT one who sticks his head in the sand when faced with brutal reality, but instead faces it head on with prayer and action.

    Like

  22. I guess it could be considered some kind of idol because not worshiping at its feet makes you suspect. To be among the elect, you have to not diss the ark or the Creation Museum.
    It works well with the prosperity gospel, too, since the bunches of money you make bilking the gullible by charging hefty fees to see the Golden Calf shows that you have curried God’s favor. It’s a win/win.

    Like

  23. It is not the first of its kind. When I lived in Orlando at the cusp of the millennium, we were subjected to The Holy Land Experience.

    I think it is still open, but I don’t know how profitable it has been. My guess is not very.

    One thing it has going for it is that both Israelis and Palestinians loathe it.

    Like

  24. Suzanne, your comment made me wonder for the first time (admittedly, maybe I should’ve wondered this sooner)… isn’t this Ark Adventure sort of a modern day Golden Calf? It could definitely be viewed as some sort of idol, right?

    Like

  25. I have never, ever understood the lure of the Ark Adventure. If my faith rests on having to pay big bucks to see some guy’s idea of what the ark looked like, if it ever really existed at all, well, then, my faith is a pretty shallow pond that will evaporate in the heat. Almost everyone I know who has visited it seems to have the sense that this being built doesn’t connect anyone with the divine but is a poke in the eye to those stupid unbelievers. The fact that so many church people have been surprised at my assertion that I have no interest in visiting leads me to believe that a visit to the Kentucky shrine is seen as a loyalty oath to Christianity, Inc. more than anything. “True” believers will of course want to go; those that don’t see the point can go to the devil.

    The revelation that it’s a lousy workplace doesn’t surprise me. I once worked for a book distributor with a robust Christian book division who wouldn’t let me decline Sunday overtime so I could go to church. Christianity is now marketing term, not a faith. Ken Ham is a hack who saw a market eager to be tapped, did so, and has made himself a rich man. Those outside “the faith” can easily see this. It’s sad that so many inside can’t or won’t.

    Like

  26. I think it’s partially an outgrowth of the “once for all” model of repentance and the “continual improvement” model of sanctification. That, and the basic human drive to view one’s in-group as Good and everyone else Less Good (or worse). “No true Scotsman… er, *evangelical*, would do that!”

    Like

  27. If you’re a “true believer” and you’re ok with folks claiming to represent your faith pulling these shenanigans, that says something about what you’re really a “true believer” in.

    Like

  28. I can’t count myself as part of the “we” of Evangelical, post-Evangelical, or even Christian believers, but I certainly agree with you. Refusing to acknowledge faults does not make them disappear.

    Like

  29. –> “My own faith experience is so much about that continuous journey and transformation that I simply can’t wrap my head around Christians who seem dead set on defending every last aspect of who they currently are, whether or not it’s Christlike. That’s not a life of faith, it’s a life of fear.”

    Great comment. Ditto.

    Like

  30. When one believes they are doing ‘God’s work’ it is easy to justify the most un-Christlike behavior toward others.

    After all, they have Cosmic-level Justification from THE Cosmic-level Authority.

    After all ‘truth’ is more important than people.

    Pure and Correct Ideology must always trump Reality.
    The Republique of Perfect Virtue always bares her breasts and beckons from the other side of the “regrettable but necessary” Reign of Terror.
    And when The Cause is Righteous enough, it justifies Any Means Whatsoever.

    Like

  31. What is really shameful here is the way the supposedly secular Kentucky state authorities, supposedly tasked with protecting the people’s interests, rolled over for Hamm and his project.

    Not surprising.
    This is the Bible Belt.
    “WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON??? GOD OR… SATAN?????
    (i.e. Choose Where YOU Spend ETERNITY!!!!!)
    Culture War Without End, Amen.

    Like

  32. Among the concerns she lists are:

    workmates who experienced dishonesty, bullying, overwork, illegal discrimination, harassment, and blackmailing…
    most employees who work on Sundays are unable to attend church, which forces hypocrisy because they are required upon hire to sign a statement promising to faithfully and regularly attend church.
    When her car broke down a fellow employee gave her a ride… and got in trouble because he was a man alone with a women…
    Another employee got in trouble for commenting on Ariella Duran’s Facebook post saying “I’m so sorry this happened… I’m praying for you.” That person was later reprimanded by AiG for commenting on the post.

    These days my automatic reaction has become
    “DO YOU REALLY EXPECT ANYTHING ELSE FROM CHRISTIANS(TM)?”

    Like

  33. Damn, but there’s lot of toxicity to go around.

    It’s like everybody wants to be the mouth not the liver, and I’m like the number seventeen offender.

    Like

  34. I think it is that some are just scoundrels, and some truly believe that God is ‘blessing’ them because of what they are doing. Unfortunately, either way, it often is the case that the ends justify the means. I’ve seen this in many church situations. When one believes they are doing ‘God’s work’ it is easy to justify the most un-Christlike behavior toward others. After all ‘truth’ is more important than people.

    Like

  35. Actually, the reality is that instead of ‘ they’re pushing bright young people away from scientific careers by characterizing scientists as inimical to their faith’, those bright young people are walking away from the ‘crazy’ that borders on cultism, when YEC claims you’ve got to believe in a 6000 year-old Earth to be a ‘Christian’.

    Young people at some point re-examine their faith and make it their own, unless of course the young people realize they’ve been in a cultic exclusive community devoid of connections with reality;
    then sadly some of these young people ‘walk away’ from the Church entire. (sigh)

    Like

  36. What is really shameful here is the way the supposedly secular Kentucky state authorities, supposedly tasked with protecting the people’s interests, rolled over for Hamm and his project. Undoubtedly someday the bill will come due but of course by then all the damage will have been done.

    Like

  37. If I were growing peach trees and Ham’s project was one of them I would deem it’s fruit bearing potential as negligible. Put another way, if I were asked who I thought was running this show, Martha or Mary, I would say Martha without hesitation. Running and forcing. Propping up the spiritual dogma. How exhausting. There’s just bound to be fallout. Of course there is fallout in every human endeavor but the possibilities for it seem ingrained in this chase for building God’s kingdom!

    Like

  38. Even more important than the question of whether it reflects badly on us: how can we ever change, right what is wrong, and grow into a better reflection of Christ if we aren’t willing to name the ways we’ve fallen short? That same process needs to happen whether as individuals, faith communities, or organizations.

    My own faith experience is so much about that continuous journey and transformation that I simply can’t wrap my head around Christians who seem dead set on defending every last aspect of who they currently are, whether or not it’s Christlike. That’s not a life of faith, it’s a life of fear.

    Like

  39. Is it, though? I know that’s a common go-to response for trying to understand outfits like Ham’s, especially when there are serious questions surrounding tax exemptions, etc. But is money really the actual motivation? I think that explanation sells the whole phenomenon of YEC short.

    AiG exists because YEC types think their view is the right one, full stop. I think they’re wrong, that an ark-themed park is a silly way to promote their perspective, that they’re getting tax breaks they shouldn’t, and that they’re pushing bright young people away from scientific careers by characterizing scientists as inimical to their faith. But their motivation is ideological, not financial, and for that very reason is far, far more influential than it would otherwise be.

    Like

  40. I’ve been reading the Julie Roys reports lately and specifically her coverage of the Zaccharias affair… and the same dynamics seem to be at play again. People don’t want to hear that he may have been a fraud, at least recently… But again, if evangelical institutions would be more willing to hold themselves and their celebrities accountable, instead of seemingly focused only on power/money/public image, then these things wouldn’t go down so badly… Again, bad character and bad actions committed by these entities brings the dishonor – not the exposure of it! Stop doing stupid things, american evangelicals and then you’ll be blameless! (like partying on a yacht, like voting for a known sexual assaulter, etc, etc, etc, etc)

    Like

  41. If pointing out the sins and flaws if God’s people (and those who claim to be) is bad, then we need to chuck the vast majority of Scripture into the trash – especially Paul and the Prophets.

    Like

  42. “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly indeed do appear beautiful, but within are full of the bones of dead men, and of all uncleanness”
    Our Saviour was publicly executed naked and nailed to a post as a common criminal in the most humiliating way possible the Romans had invented for someone to die. The gospels tell us he was conceived in what appeared on the outside the most dubious of circumstances, and his mother was forced to give birth to him in the cattle shed because all the guest rooms were taken by guests who actually mattered. Our religion spread at a spectacular rate despite being dismissed as the religion of slaves, subject to false rumours of cannibalism and immoral sexual license and being associated with a nation that had been utterly defeated and humiliated in their rebellion against Rome. We were accused of burning down Rome and all sorts of other crimes.
    Christianity is not harmed by a “bad reputation” or poor press or false accusations or any kind of libel or slander. It is harmed only by our own actions in failing to live up to the faith. All those who are concerned with maintaining the whitewash on the outside do so to distract attention from the corruption and uncleanness within. A church genuinely full of the Spirit and of love of God and neighbour has nothing to fear from scandal, and would trust in God that he will see us OK to do the right thing and be open about when things go wrong.

    Like

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