On May 31 2007, Answers in Genesis was sued by their former colleagues, now Creation Ministries International in Australia. This has been a long time coming, and I've been following the unfolding story now for over a year.
Many bloggers have picked up on it recently; and this is intended to be a helpful cross reference to the material available, with some commentary of my own.
Answers in Genesis in the USA was founded by Ken Ham, who is still CEO. Ham started out in Australia, where he and John MacKay helped start up the "Creation Science Foundation" (CSF) in the early 1980s, as a merger with another creationist group in Australia ("Creation Science Association" – CSA). Then in 1987 Ham moved to the USA. He still speaks of himself as a "missionary from Australia to the USA". Originally he was seconded to work with the ICR (Morris' group), which he did until 1993. Then he started up a new ministry, with the blessing of the ICR and the CSF. The new group was originally called "Creation Science Ministries", and had a close association with the CSF in Australia. Both groups changed their names to "Answers in Genesis", in 1994.
In Australia, John MacKay had been heading the CSF; but a very ugly and weird dispute in 1986 lead to his resignation and Carl Wieland became the new leader in 1987; a position he still holds.
The organizations were legally distinct, being incorporated separately in different countries. The same applied as "Answers in Genesis" was set up in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. The management was very closely linked, with Ken Ham remaining on the board of AiG-Australia, and Australians remaining on the board of AiG-USA.
This close association remained in place until 2005, when the groups separated. The difference seems to have been mainly on management styles; the cracks began to appear in 2004. The Australian group renamed itself "Creation Ministries International" (CMI), and the American group remains "Answers in Genesis".
You can read the AiG-USA account of the history here, and the CMI (Australia) account here. There are some subtle differences in emphasis in these two histories, which the truly obsessive will find amusing.
An aside… the split with John MacKay in 1987.
The split between CSF and John MacKay back in in 1986-7 is only peripherally relevant; but it is so weird, so insane, that I can't bear to omit it entirely. In brief, MacKay started accusing a CSF staffer, Margarent Buchanan, of witchcraft, Satanism, and necrophilia with her dead husband. There was never the slightest basis for these accusations; apart from "discernment" by MacKay. MacKay made an ultimatum that either that woman left, or he did. This was a problem, because MacKay was so important to the group; but in the end MacKay resigned and went his own way. He was also excommunicated from his own Baptist church for the whole affair.
Ken Ham played an important role in fixing up the matter, and strongly condemned MacKay at that time. Buchanan was his personal secretary; she is now married to Carl Wieland. MacKay now runs his own group, Creation Research. One question that many onlookers would love to have answered is the extent to which MacKay has since reconciled with Ham. This page at MacKay's site suggests some level of reconciliation: Ken Ham's New Creation Museum (at MacKay's CR site). But Answers in Genesis has no corresponding comment that I can find.
For more on this extraordinary affair, CMI has put up a detailed set of documents. See Re: John Mackay, at CMI. Their reason for putting this material online again, after 20 years, is a concern that MacKay is being rehabilitated in some way. The only evidence given for such reconciliation is MacKay's own newsletter, cited above, which concludes "Pray for Ken and Mally as their ministry Answers In Genesis (AIG) has come under much attack over this past year." It is also claimed that MacKay addressed an AiG staff meeting in 2006.
I may be cynical; but I think the significance of this is overblown. The primary reason for putting up this information is, I suspect, to help discredit AiG further. But it's a wild rollicking read all the same.
The origins of the split between AiG and CMI.
The origin of the split between AiG and CMI appears to be concern over management style and structure, first raised in 2004. Wieland made some proposals for change, and Ham flatly rejected them. It appears that Ham pretty much refused to have any dealings with Wieland from that point on; which made negotiations very difficult.
Around the end of 2005, the two groups formally went their separate ways. AiG-USA maintained their close association with AiG-UK (United Kingdom); and four other groups (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada) renamed themselves Creation Ministries International. Since then CMI has also set up offices in the UK and in the USA.
The spit shows signs of considerable acrimony and power struggles, going far beyond management style differences. There are two major assets at issue. One is the Answers in Genesis website, maintained in the USA. The other is the journals, Creation and TJ (Technical Journal), produced in Australia and distributed in other nations.
In regard to both these assets, the Australians have been royally screwed by the Americans; and this is the basis of the lawsuit.
The basis of the lawsuit. (1) Control of the website.
With respect to the website, AiG-USA wanted to keep full control of everything on the site, regardless of who had written it originally. Many of the website articles are actually extracts from the magazine; many others are written by creationists from Australia or New Zealand. The problem for AiG-USA is that copyright remains with the authors.
In October of 2005, there was a fateful meeting between AiG-USA and members of the board of the Australian group – but not the management of the Australia group. The Australian board signed a rather startling agreement, in which they give AiG-USA a license to use and modify all the articles on the website, while at the same time holding AiG-Australia liable for any damages that might be claimed arising from such changes. Basically, they handed over complete control of the articles to AiG-USA, took full responsibility for ensuring authors would also consent to this, and accepted full liability for any damages should the original authors object!
I'm not up on the legal ramifications of the document, and I have only seen an extract. But it should come out and be better clarified in the lawsuit.
In any case, this created a major gulf between the management of AiG-Australia and their board. A very strange power struggle results, with Wieland and other staff being dismissed, followed by a mass rebellion of staff, followed by their reinstatement and the resignation of the board. A new board was formed, and the old board was given indemnity from any consequences of their signing of the agreement with AiG-USA.
The basis of the lawsuit. (2) Control of the magazines.
AiG-USA had been distributing the two magazines produced in Australia to a list of some 35,000 subscribers. The Australian group has no access to this mail list, and the USA group produced a new magazine of their own, and represented that as the replacement for the previous magazines.
The American group announced in February 2006 that they could no longer distribute Creation magazine. The March distribution simply did not take place, and many subscribers were led to believe that the old magazines were no longer available. Instead, they were invited to give a new subscription to the new magazine: Answers. Attempts by the Australians to let people know the original magazines were still being produced were thwarted at every point. The misleading information given was a deliberate attempt to capture the subscriber base.
My own conclusion is that the ethics of this case are all in favour of the Australian group, which has been treated with cynical malice by the Americans. No doubt there are differences of opinion on proper management style, or what reasonable rights should be due to each side. And certainly both sides are absolute screaming lunatics with respect to science.
Put all that aside… and what is left is a set of business actions by two competing businesses. Legal questions are beyond my meager abilities to resolve. I'm not at all sure that CMI actually has a strong legal case. But I think the USA group has been totally unethical. I will, of course, revise that tentative opinion if better information becomes available.
The other things that strikes me… it is normal in any dispute for both parties to maintain that they hold a higher moral ground. Is it just me, or does this become especially nauseating when both parties are Christians giving to quoting the bible at each other, blathering on about how they attempt to "lovingly" remonstrate with their "brethren", carrying on about "godly" documents (Ken Ham's favorite adjective for his sleazy little agreement from Oct 2005) and so on?
One other thing… in a recent letter (linked below) Ken Ham speaks of AiG being under "Spiritual Attack". No Ken; it is just a lawsuit. Nothing spiritual about it. The only thing you might call a spiritual attack, by the light of your religion, would be back in 2005 or so, when you faced up to temptations to rip off your parent body and run rough shed over their input into your little empire. And guess what? You lost the “spiritual” warfare at that point when you opted for underhanded avariciousness.
Hopefully I have piqued your interest in this affair. Here now is a list of what information I have been able to find. I plan to be extending this list as appropriate, as information comes to light. Feel free to give suggestions in the comments.
Information from Creation Ministries International
CMI has adopted a deliberate policy of transparency, making enormous amounts of information available. It will of course reflect their perspective, but the wealth of detail does, in my view, give a serious observer ample warrant for reading between the lines and sorting out what went down.
There is almost nothing from AiG available. However, AiG did send out an email to their supporters after the lawsuit was filed – though not to CMI. CMI obtained a copy of this in short order of course, and they have made it available as well, with their own comments interspersed.
If I see anything more from AiG on this, I will add it to the page.
Update: I have added above a second private AiG response that CMI has made public with their own commentary. There's an interesting ethical point here with making private emails public. The name of the recipient of this email has been removed; and it is material that AiG should really be making generally available. Their tactic of responding privately rather than publically is unfortunate. I would love to link to an AiG response, but they so far have not give one I can use. For the time being, you have to live with the CMI commentary being included. This second email gives the most comprehsive AiG perspective that I have seen so far.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun* at Red State Rabble
The following are slightly older blog references to the dispute, from last year, before the lawsuit
If there are more entries I should add, just tell me in the comments. I'm particularly keen to add any pages that provide some kind of AiG perspective on the whole mess.
*Update. Adding blogs: new entries since the original post are presently marked with an asterix.
Update June 9. A second AiG email has been linked into the resources. As before, it is put up by CMI with their additional comments.
Friday, 8 June 2007
Posted at 6/08/2007 07:34:00 pm