Monday, June 28, 2010

Live Updates from the Teen Mania Ministries Conference Call

Tonight Teen Mania Ministries is hosting a conference call to publicly address the abuse allegations detailed on the Recovering Alumni website. Teen Mania Watch, of course, will be listening in on the call, and will be providing live updates on this blog throughout the evening as the call progresses. Check back here for updates starting at approximately 8:45PM Eastern Time (7:45PM Central Time). You may need to hit the "refresh" button on your browser periodically to make sure you are reading the latest postings. So, if you can't be on the call for whatever reason, or just want to read some intelligent commentary on what's being said by Teen Mania leaders on the call, check back here for the latest real-time updates.

(Note: All times listed are Eastern Time)

8:52 PM - Just dialed in. 28 callers already on the line. I received a message that said "Line Muted" as soon as I joined the conference call....I'm assuming all participants except for TMM leaders will be muted for most, if not all of the call.

9:01 PM - Dave Hasz opens the call, introducing himself and offering a brief prayer for the conference call.

9:03 PM - Dave Hasz says that over 80 participants are currently on the call. Says TMM has "technology in place" to allow people to ask questions....hoping that it works out. Says uncertainty about technology is what prompted the request to e-mail questions ahead of time.

9:07 PM - Dave Hasz offers brief background of why they are having a conference calls. Talks about how he became aware of the website, and the board of directors investigation. Then Dave reads the letter he's already posted on Teen Mania's response website.

9:11 PM - Dave finishes reading letter....says the goal of the call is to bring real changes to the Honor Academy...says "if you are here for something other than that, you're probably going to be frustrated.

9:12 PM - Dave starts talking about how changes have already been made at the Honor Academy....talks about changes in ATF/LTE driving policy. Also talking about how HA leadership is now seeking more feedback from interns via weekly meetings and other regular evaluations. Mentions existence of "whistleblower" number available for current interns to anonymously report problems at the Honor Academy.

9:15 PM - Dave is talking about how discipline policy at the Honor Academy has changed over the years....says the discipline policy has gone from a "zero-tolerance" policy of immediate dismissal to a more lenient system that involves probation before dismissal.

9:17 PM - Dave Hasz is still speaking. Talking about how the Pike's Peek LTE has participants have to do a qualifying test before actually participating in the event. Also saying that ESOAL has changed "dramatically"....only changes mentioned right now seem to be smaller, tighter platoon leadership structure.

9:19 PM - Dave Hasz is now talking about maximum number of work hours for interns....says there will now be a system of "over/under weeks" based on the department that the intern works in. Says work hours will be limited to "a reasonable number of hours," but doesn't mention what that number is. Also, says that interns will have no more than 4 weeks per year where they have to work an "over" week with required overtime.

9:22 PM - Dave starts addressing e-mailed questions. Starts off with a question about whether or not the Honor Ring system is biblical. Dave doesn't seem to have any problems with it....compares it to a wedding ring....rings "remind you of the commitment you've made to live an honorable lifestlye." Says that a person's value isn't determined by an Honor Ring.

9:24 PM - Dave Hasz reports that the conference call is limited to 100 people...says the "technology company did not inform Teen Mania of the limitation."

9:25 PM - Dave Hasz starts addressing some of Teen Mania Watch's questions. Says that the practice of opening shower curtains is not specifically condoned by TMM leadership (seems afraid to say the word "masturbating" on the call, replacing it with "involved in sexual activity"). Addresses vegetarian question...says that vegetarian interns have plenty of accommodations available to them. Vegetarians/vegans may be forced to eat meat on mission trips.

9:27 PM - Dave Hasz now answeing questions in rapid-fire succession. Says that he doesn't see why ESOAL isn't scriptural.

9:32 PM - Dave Hasz addressing the "yes, man" atmosphere at Teen Mania. Saying the issues have been addressed, interns can now provide feedback.

9:33 PM - Dave announces that an overflow number is available for people who couldn't get on the call. If you're still trying to call in, try this new number: (218)936-6581 and use PIN: 14601.

9:35 PM - Dave says that medics are available 24/7 during ESOAL. Says, "interestingly, this year, there were no interns that needed ambulatory care." Seems like it shouldn't be "interesting" that no one needed an ambulance. Says that mental health professionals are NOT available during ESOAL....but "life coaches" are.

9:40 PM - Someone asked about what third parties have oversight over the Honor Academy? Dave claims not to know what the participant was asking...says that TMM is accountable to the ECFA, the IRS, and the Board of Directors. Dave says he personally is accountable to parents and intern. Says there is "no legal third-party oversight of the Teen Mania Honor Academy."

9:42 PM - Dave addresses our question about sleep. Says there is no minimum number of hours interns are guaranteed for sleep. Says that often sleep deprivation is the result of interns signing up for "extra-curricular activities" like Potter's Desire, and because "who wants to sleep when stuff is going on".

9:45 PM - Dave addresses questions of pay cuts. Says that leadership did take pay cuts, won't specifically say how much.

9:46 PM - Dave addresses question of stray animals on campus. Says that Teen Mania does indeed shoot and kill stray animals on campus. Says that a "trained marksmen" is responsible for this. Just sent a few follow-up questions on this...will see if he responds.

9:48 PM - Dave talks about "aura of a statesman" issue. Says that the standards only apply "sometimes"....seems to be saying interns have taken his teachings out of context.

9:50 PM - Question of reparations is raised by a former intern. Dave apologizes extensively for the hurt that Teen Mania caused...admits that people have been hurt by Teen Mania...but makes no mention of paying for anyone's counseling or any other reparations by hurt interns.

9:54 PM - Dave addresses the relationship between Teen Mania and his rental property. Says there is an "extensive process" that Teen Mania goes through to avoid conflict of interest. Says he is responsible financially for major repairs on his rental properties. Categorically states that no interns, paid or unpaid, were involved in building his house.

9:58 PM - A participant asked a question about why donations can't be returned if interns decide to leave. Dave Hasz claims that they have tried to work with the IRS to be able to return donations, but there is "just no way." Teen Mania Watch will be researching this claim further this week.

10:03 PM - Dave answers real estate questions...seems irritated that people were looking into his land records. Very condescending...admits to being "flippant" because there was "absolutely nothing improper" going on. Says no TMM money was used to pay off his properties.

10:04 PM - Dave Hasz clearly states that the Honor Academy is NOT for everyone...despite the fact that HA callers are encouraged to tell pretty much everyone they speak with that "God is calling them" to the Honor Academy.

10:07 PM - Dave Hasz briefly touches on ATF driving again...again states that policies have been changed and there are no problems anymore.

10:10 PM - Dave claims he doesn't make anywhere near $80k in rental income from Teen Mania...even though IRS records clearly indicate he collects over $78k in rental income each year. Teen Mania Watch will be posting further documentation of this in the near future.

10:14 PM - Dave claims that medical and psychological professionals have observed and approved of ESOAL, but he "isn't going to make those names public." He also says "There comes a point in time where you either trust the Honor Academy, or you don't." Sorry Dave...we don't. :(

10:16 PM - Dave seems to be mocking the question of "Has a medical professional looked at corporate exercise and determined the expectations are reasonable and safe?" Says that no, he has not...and again, you just need to "trust the Honor Academy." Dave seems to be getting snippier and more defensive as the call goes on.

10:18 PM - Dave denies that interns who are sick or injured are made to feel like "lesser questions." Says that he doesn't know where the allegations that people are treated like lesser Christians because they are sick are coming from.

10:20 PM - Dave says he had said "beat your body and make it your slave" just once over the past year. Says he makes it clear that physical fitness does NOT equal spiritual fitness. Says he doesn't know where these allegations come from.

10:22 PM - Dave says he has never counseled an intern to not go to a doctor or not take medication. Says that the allegations are false. Also says that prayer is encouraged in addition to seeking medical attention.

10:23 PM - Dave is talking about how a clinic shuttle runs Monday-Friday for interns to seek medical care.

10:24 PM - "Why do you tell interns that you can sleep when you're dead?" Says that he has on occasion said that, but basically says "that's not what I really meant," and he also claims he now encourages interns to sleep.

10:26 PM - "Who exactly is the Honor Academy for?" It's for people who want to be challenged or pushed, not for people who are already "psychologically broken" or for people who "need rehabilitation." Dave says "we are not equipped to help those people."

10:29 PM - Dave talking about how the Honor Council is biblical....says it is "merciful." :-/

10:31 PM - Dave specifically says that Teen Mania doesn't tell teens that it is "God's will" for them to be in the Honor Academy. Will post specific proof of the falsehood of these claims soon.

10:34 PM - Dave answering questions about "orange block."

10:36 PM - Dave finishes answering e-mailed questions, announces one minute Q&A to follow.

Unfortunately, the call is still going and it looks like it will be for quite some time. This blogger has family obligations and has to discontinue live-blogging at this point....but not to worry. In the next 24 hours, we'll be posting a recording of the call, along with a complete "fact check" and analysis of what Dave Hasz has said. If you haven't already, subscribe to Teen Mania Watch's RSS feed for the latest updates and information.

List of Questions for Teen Mania Ministries

Since Dave Hasz has indicated that he will "stay on the call until [he] has given an answer for all of the questions that are emailed in," I decided to compose a list of some of my most burning questions. Here is the e-mail that I sent to Teen Mania about an hour ago--word-for-word and in its entirety. Let's see if Dave Hasz and company specifically responds to each and every question on my list.

Have a question of your own? Send it to Teen Mania at the e-mail address below, and feel free to post a comment with your question here so there is a public record of it before the call!


Subject: List of Questions for Tonight's Conference Call
From: Teen Mania Watch
Sent 6/28/2010 at 5:03PM EST

Here is a list of questions I would like to see addressed during this call. I am particularly interested in the animal control issue, ESOAL, and whether or not interns are making repairs to Dave's rental properties without Dave compensating Teen Mania for their services. Looking forward to the call and getting some answers to the very important questions that have been raised.

Teen Mania Watch Blogger

1) Lack of sleep is a recurring theme in numerous blogs and Tweets by current and former interns. In some cases, this sleep deprivation has lead to physical and emotional problems. Is there a minimum amount of time that interns are guaranteed to have free between their last activity at night and first activity in the morning (i.e. 9 hours between the last planned activity at night and corporate exercise in the morning)? Does this minimum apply during summer missions? While on the road for Acquire the Fire?

2) Former interns have reported that stray cats that were found on campus were sometimes shot & killed. There are even reports that interns have tortured cats before killing them. How are stray cats and other animals that are found on campus dealt with? Are interns responsible for getting rid of the animals? Is there any supervision by an animal care expert during this process, or any adult supervision whatsoever?

3) Most organizations that plan physically and/or emotionally demanding events plan to have an ample number trained medical professionals available to participants at all times throughout the event. Is a trained and licensed paramedic or other medical professional on hand at all times during ESOAL, 24 hours per day? Are there licensed mental health professionals that participants can speak with at any time during ESOAL?

4) Male interns have reported having their privacy invaded by other interns and "leadership" in the name of "accountability"--specifically, shower curtains are opened by ACAs (and others) to make sure the male intern isn't masturbating. Is this a condoned practice? Has Dave or Heath specifically forbidden this practice among male interns?

5) Many former interns have told stories of long drives to ATFs in distant cities. Is there an adult staff member present with groups of travelling teens at all times? Do teens have to drive through the night, or do they get to stop somewhere for the night to sleep? Are there repercussions if a teen chooses to drive while sleep deprived, putting his/her peers in danger?

6) Dave Hasz teaches that leaders should be "ethical and above reproach." In addition to Dave's salary of around $80,000 per year, he collects $80,000 in rental income from Teen Mania on approximately $400,000 worth of property. A reasonable rent is approximately 1% of market value, or $48,000 per year ($4,000/month). Why the discrepancy? Is this "ethical and above reproach?" Does this "avoid the appearance of evil?"

7) According to publicly-available land records, on April 6, 2010, Dave Hasz paid off his current home in the amount of $378,750, after just a few years of ownership. How was this possible given his income? These same land records indicate several of the other rental properties seem to be paid off in full as well. Did Dave pay off these loans with his own money, or did Teen Mania help him pay down the loans?

8) Do interns from the grounds crew, maintenance, or any other department provide services to or make repairs on Dave Hasz’s rental properties using Teen Mania's resources? Did interns help build Dave’s house without being paid?

9) Did Dave Hasz, Ron Luce, or any other senior staff take pay cuts during Teen Mania’s recent financial crisis? If so, what was the percentage of cuts?

10) What accommodations are available for vegetarian or vegan interns? Are vegetarian options available at all meals? During ESOAL? Do vegetarian/vegan interns have to strictly follow the "eat what you are served" rule on their missions trip, even if it means they have to compromise their values and eat meat?

Dave Hasz Can't Make Up His Mind About Tonight's Call

From the time Teen Mania Ministries announced tonight's conference call, members of the Recovering Alumni community have been expecting to be able to ask questions and interact with Teen Mania leadership live on the conference call. Dave Hasz even made this Facebook post, which says "I will be answering live questions throughout the evening," and definitely makes it seem as if providing your question to Teen Mania in advance via e-mail is completely optional.

However, after posting this note on his Facebook page, controversy erupted, lots of comments ensued, and Dave Hasz appears to have quickly changed his tune--leaving this comment on the very same note:

Did it just suddenly dawn on Dave Hasz that there might be a lot of people on this call? Or could it be that Dave Hasz and the other Teen Mania staff members are afraid they'll be caught off guard, and want to have time to prepare some "canned" answers to tough questions before the call? We may never know....but it appears like if you want your question answered on tonight's call, you'll need to e-mail it to beforehand.

Teen Mania Ministries to Address Abuse Allegations via Public Conference Call

Teen Mania Ministries has recently announced on their website that they will be hosting a conference call to address the serious accusations of physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse at the Honor Academy recently made by former interns on the Recovering Alumni blog. Dave Hasz (Director of Teen Mania's Honor Academy) and Heath Stoner (Teen Mania's Director of Operations, Men's Program) will be on the call, along with other Teen Mania staff members. Teen Mania has already announced they will be recording the call and posting the recording on their website.

The conference call is taking place tonight, Monday, June 28, 2010 at 9:00pm Eastern time...8:00pm Central time. The call is scheduled to be just 90 minutes, but time may be added as necessary. Here's the dial-in information, as posted on Teen Mania's website:

Phone Number: (214) 377-1252
Public PIN: 14601

It's always interesting when large, Christian, para-church organizations like Teen Mania are under so much pressure that they actually take the time to publicly address the controversy swirling around them. If you have the time, I would highly encourage you to dial in and participate in the call. Keep and eye on this blog and our Twitter page throughout today and the rest of the week for news updates, analysis, and follow-up coverage of Teen Mania's ongoing crisis management efforts.