The Skeleton in Doug Phillips’s Closet Is Now in the Creation Museum. Literally.
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
In case you missed the news, the Creation Museum — labor of love par excellence of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis — acquired some dinosaur bones. Those bones, belonging to 30-foot-long, 10-foot-high Ebenezer the Allosaurus, are valued at $1 million. According to Ham, Ebenezer is named after the “stone of help” that the Hebrew prophet Samuel set up to honor his God. Ebenezer was unveiled to the public on May 23 of this year.
There has been a healthy debate over the significance of Ebenezer when it comes to the Creationism vs. Evolutionism debate. Ham believes Ebenezer will “expose the scientific problems with evolution” and “help us defend the book of Genesis.” In contrast some have argued that, depending on how much or little data was collected during its excavation, Ebenezer might be “useless scientifically.”
But there are other — and maybe more significant — debates buried underneath the surface. Just this last week there’s been widespread discussion over whether the Creation Museum should have accepted the gift of the bones in the first place. The bones were donated by the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation, a foundation that focuses primarily on “putting an end to the catastrophe of abortion.” The catch is that Michael Peroutka, the man who runs the foundation (along with his brother, Stephen Peroutka), appears to be a white supremacist sympathizer.
Michael Peroutka is currently a debt collection lawyer and a Republican candidate in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He is more known, though, as the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party in 2004. (The Constitution Party was started in 1992 by Howard Phillips, the father of Doug Phillips — disgraced former HSLDA attorney, president of Vision Forum, and homeschool celebrity, now being sued by his nanny on charges of molestation.) During Peroutka’s 2004 presidential campaign, he ran as “the home-school candidate.” This image wasn’t helped, however, by revelations that he “had disowned two teenage stepdaughters who accused him of abuse.” (One of his daughters claimed he sexually abused her, though she later retracted that claim.)
Also during his 2004 campaign, Peroutka was endorsed by the League of the South — a white supremacist and nationalist organization and Neo-Confederate hate group. The League’s founder, Michael Hill, has expressed his organization’s white supremacy quite blatantly, describing American slavery as “God-ordained” and calling for a hierarchal society composed of “superiors, equals and inferiors.” In 2013, Peroutka joined the Board of Directors of the League of the South. (You can see Peroutka’s name on the League’s website in this December 2013 archived screen capture.)
But even more curious that Peroutka’s disturbing connections with white supremacy is the actual history of Ebenezer the Allosaurus. The Creation Museum, Ken Ham, and Answers in Genesis have all conveniently neglected to mention this history. And I say “convenient” because they are all entirely aware of that history.
See, Ebenezer the Allosaurus is the dinosaur that Doug Phillips lied about and stole.
You won’t find this in many of the news articles about Ebenezer. (Except for Right Wing Watch and io9. Props to them for connecting the dots.) Somehow this origin story has been forgotten. So let’s review:
Answers in Genesis geologist Andrew Snelling says that Ebenezer was “found in the Morrison Formation of North America (specifically in northwestern Colorado).” And in their October 2013 press release first announcing the dinosaur donation, Answers in Genesis said the following:
One blessing in getting the allosaur was that the Creation Museum did not seek it out. Ten years ago, the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation bought the specimen and housed it. Thousands of hours later, the bones of this magnificent fossil are almost completely cleaned and restored thanks to the DeRosa family of Creation Expeditions.
Ah, yes. The DeRosa family of Creation Expeditions. That rings a bell.
And here is how Michael Peroutka explains the situation, as quoted in the Capitol-Gazette:
Peroutka said his foundation is a small family charity he and his brother, Stephen, established and named after their mother. It was meant to give financial aid to groups “dedicated to ending the holocaust of abortion,” he said.
But the organization’s mission took a “slight detour,” Peroutka said, after a meeting with the DeRosa family of Crystal River, Fla., during a home-schooling excursion.
He said the family told him they were part of a group that discovered a dinosaur specimen in Colorado and that there were competing claims over its ownership.
Peroutka said his foundation purchased the fossils “to settle those claims.” It’s unclear how much the charity originally paid for them.
The skeleton was excavated about 10 years ago on private property owned by a Christian woman near the town of Dinosaur, Colo., museum representatives said.
So we have several indicators of what allosaurus this is:
1) Northwestern Colorado
2) The DeRosa family
3) A home-schooling excursion that ended with “competing claims” over ownership
Well, there’s only one allosaurus that fits that description. And we’ll let WorldNetDaily circa 2002 handle this one:
A dinosaur fossil expedition for home educators has excavated a large, rare, intact allosaurus, a discovery that organizers say helps debunk the theory of evolution… Under the leadership of Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum and an adjunct professor of apologetics with the Institute for Creation Research, and Peter DeRosa, a veteran archaeologist and paleontologist with Creation Expeditions, the team of 30 home schoolers spent a week earlier this month hunting for and excavating fossils in a privately owned location in the Skullcreek Basin of northwest Colorado.
Yes, the allosaurus that Peroutka’s foundation bought — which has now been donated to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum — is the very same one “discovered” by Doug Phillips and his homeschooling paleontologist stars over a decade ago. This was the subject of Phillip’s so-called “documentary” Raising the Allosaur.
Except that, you know, Doug Phillips lied about all of it.
In 2004, Terry Beh (former writer for Promise Keepers and Focus on the Family) and Mary Gavin (home-school parents of five children and nine grandchildren) wrote a blog post titled, “Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue: Vision Forum Unmasked.” In that post, Beh and Gavin call Doug Phillips and his documentary out for “grossly violating” Christian ethics, in particular ethics against stealing and lying. Basically, a group of individuals discovered Ebenezer and did the hard work of extracting the bones, and then Doug Phillips swooped in and completely rewrote the history about what happened — and then sued the original people involved in order to claim full credit. Here’s an excerpt from Beh and Gavin’s post:
The controversy surrounds the excavation of an allosaurus discovered in northwest Colorado by landowner, Dana Forbes. Forbes, who originally found the allosaur in October 2000 and is featured in the beginning of Phillips’ film, was not given credit for the discovery. The Forbes abandoned both their land and their dream of blessing the creation community through tours and scientific studies on the land through the deceitful actions of Doug Phillips.
Vision Forum deceived and bullied many parties involved in order to profit from the exciting discovery. Chief among them is Joe Taylor, who owns perhaps the largest creation fossil museum in the world which is located in Crosbyton, Texas. Taylor, the lead site manager for the allosaur excavation [and part owner of the allosaur], is not featured in Phillips film at all.
Tom DeRosa, president of Creation Studies Institute and Mike Zovath, field representative for Answers In Genesis [presently vice-president of AiG] were part of the original dig. When the Vision Forum group came to the Forbes property in May of 2002 to film “Raising the Allosaur” over three partial days of digging, all that was left of the allosaur was the end of the tail, which had been plaster cast the year before to protect it from erosion.
By the time the Vision Forum group (composed primarily of homeschool families that paid $999.00 per person) had departed, the skull had not yet been found. This is why there is no footage of it being excavated in the film….
Legal demands and threats were made against Taylor to surrender the bones. Under threat of a lawsuit, and believing it wrong to sue a brother, Taylor reluctantly let them have it. The bones were taken to a makeshift “lab” owned by Doug Phillips. Consequently, Taylor suffered devastating financial losses and has had to shut his museum down several times as well as sell his museum displays just to survive.
Another account about Doug Phillips’s unethical and bullying behavior regarding Ebenezer the Allosaur can be found on Under Much Grace. Joe Taylor was also sued by the DeRosa family for speaking out against Doug Phillips’s film. (The DeRosa family were the stars of the film.)
Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis are well-aware of this history. Their field representative, after all, was present during the original dig. However, neither Ham nor his organization have ever called out Phillips’ attempts at deception and theft, despite being asked to in 2007. Instead, Ham eagerly accepted Vision Forum’s “George Washington Award Man of the Year” from Doug Phillips, saying Phillips was a “ministry friend” and he was “honored” to accept the award. Ham and Phillips continued to speak together over the following decade at homeschool convention after convention, all the way through last year, when both were the keynote speakers at the 30th Annual CHEA Homeschool Convention in California, along with HSLDA’s Elizabeth Smith. (This was mere months before Phillips resigned due to his sexual abuse of Lourdes Torres-Mantufuel being discovered.) Then again, Ham’s silence in this case proved to benefit him: he was the one who ended up with Ebenezer, a $1 million boon to Ham’s creationist empire — an empire built by Ham’s own history of him bullying others, much like Doug Phillips.