Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Creationist finances: the Creation Evidence Museum

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the finances of the creationist ministries which were previously reported in Reports of the National Center for Science Education in 2000 in an article by John Cole: the Access Research Network, Answers in Genesis, the Creation Evidences Museum, Creation Illustrated Ministries, Creation Moments, the Creation Research Society, Creation Worldview Ministries, the Institute for Creation Research, the Discovery Institute, and I'll add Walter Brown's Center for Scientific Creation to the list.

I've already commented on Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, and Access Research Network.

The Creation Evidence Museum (formerly Creation Evidences Museum) of Glen Rose, Texas is run by Rev. Carl Baugh, one of the most unreliable young-earth creationists still around. Baugh, born in 1936, was the Kent Hovind of his day, and boasts a CV that includes promoting Paluxy River dinosaur footprints as human footprints, diploma mill degrees, and running a diploma mill. Baugh is one of the creationists who has been called out by name in criticism by Creation Ministries International.

One of Baugh's claims is that a 19th-century miner's hammer he found in a concretion in Ordovician or Silurian rock is an "out-of-place" fossil proving that the earth is young. Baugh has refused to allow the handle of this hammer to be radiocarbon dated. In a written debate I had with Walter Brown of the Center for Scientific Creation, Brown raised this hammer as a problem for evolution, and stated that it had not been dated because of Baugh's three "understandable" conditions for dating it, one of which was that someone else pay for it. Glen Kuban has an up-to-date summary of the claims regarding this hammer.

And now, the financial data--first, the 1998 information from John R. Cole's "Money Floods Anti-Evolutionists' Coffers" in Reports of the National Center for Science Education 20(1-2, 2000):64-65:

Revenue: $420,460
Expenses: $365,816

And the last three years:

2002 (Aug 2002-July 2003):
Revenue: $610,693.35
Expenses: $565,340.58
Net assets at end of year: $1,178,851.97
Carl Baugh, president and director: $63,780.72

The 2002-2003 Form 990 is printed by hand.

2003 (August 2003-July 2004):
Revenue: $493,797.03
Expenses: $498,214.66
Net assets at end of year: $1,174,434.34
Carl Baugh, president and director: $66,717.50

2004 (August 2004-July 2005):
Revenue: $494,361.26
Expenses: $466,491.23
Net assets at end of year: $1,202,304.37
Carl Baugh, president and director: $68,639.80

The Creation Evidence Museum is another small and not terribly influential organization. About half of its annual expenses go to running the museum, much of the rest to salaries and benefits, with a few thousand dollars a year spent on various forms of "research." Its income is about $300,000 a year in donations, $170,000-$200,000 in receipts from admissions, merchandise sold, etc.

The good news is that gross receipts from admissions and merchandise sold have declined, not hitting $200,000 since 2001. It also looks like revenue may have peaked in 2003. The decline is attributable to a decline in sales of "educational products," as museum entrance fees and lecture fees have increased:

Museum entrance fees and lectures:
2002: $24,055
2003: $23,295
2004: $27,961

Sales of "educational products":
2002: $151,454.55
2003: $144,242.14
2004: $139,375.02

Most of the museum's assets are in buildings, equipment, five vehicles, and the museum collection of artifacts. At the end of July 2005, it had less than $20,000 in cash on hand, and $61,000 in investments. This is not a museum sitting on a large endowment that will continue to operate if the cash flow were to stop.

You can find CEM's 2002 Form 990 here, their 2003 Form 990 here, and their 2004 Form 990 here.


Ed Darrell said...

About three years ago I attended a "kick-off" fund raising lecture in Glen Rose with Baugh and Duane Gish. They were embarking on a national tour to raise money for a new museum structure, to be built (inexplicably) in the shape of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. I'd have to consult my notes, but I think they needed about $36 million to get it off the ground.

Without going in to too many details of that presentation ("Mr. Woodpecker," one of Gish's favorite cartoon characters, played a prominent role in the Gish part), I just want to say that I was under the impression that they hoped to get the money raised to break ground by now. The 200 or so people in the audience included about 198 who greeted this news enthusiastically, and I recall several checks being written on the spot.

From your analysis, do you think there is activity in this group, particularly with the failure to complete these various museum fund-raising projects, that might raise the interest of the Texas attorney general? Can non-profits raise money under one pretense, then spend it under another?

Lippard said...


I believe that raising funds for a specific purpose and then not using them for that purpose would constitute fraud, but without a complaining victim it is not likely that anything will be done about it. It may be that the donations were collected under the understanding that if not enough was raised for the new museum, it would go into general funds, and it may also be that donors were later notified that the project was not going to happen and offering the possibility of refund--in my opinion that would be the only ethical course of action.

In my experience, there is not a lot of oversight on nonprofits and it takes extreme malfeasance and complaints from victims to get any enforcement action to occur. For example, for many years tax-exempt nonprofit "credit counseling" services have been used in conjunction with telemarketing companies to engage in fairly blatant scams, but the IRS only took action last year to revoke the tax-exempt status of a number of these scammers.