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At Dave Ramsey’s Company, Some Sex Outside Marriage Was OK, Court Documents Show

By Bob Smietana
Dave Ramsey discrimination finance expert hogan
In this July 29, 2009, file photo, financial guru Dave Ramsey sits in his broadcasting studio in Brentwood, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Josh Anderson, File)

In early 2019, Dave Ramsey, the finance guru and national radio host, began to think that he’d made a terrible mistake.

For months he and other leaders at Ramsey Solutions had been backing Chris Hogan, a bestselling author and speaker for the Franklin, Tennessee, media and publishing company, in a dispute with Hogan’s wife, who had accused him of adultery.

Ramsey had learned of the allegations against Hogan in the fall of 2018, on the eve of a major tour planned for Hogan’s “Everyday Millionaire” book. For Ramsey Solutions, the allegations presented a particularly thorny problem. Founded by Ramsey in1992, the company offers financial advice — famously, stern warnings to avoid debt — with a Christian foundation. Much of its revenue comes from the personal finance courses and books it sells to churches and from his daily radio show.

The biblical ethic extended to Ramsey Solutions’ employees: Ramsey personally enforced the company’s “righteous living” rules, which, among other things, bar premarital and extramarital sex. Ramsey Solutions has been sued by former employees; one who was fired after higher-ups learned she was pregnant without being married, and another who alleges she was terminated for being a lesbian. (In the latter case, the company settled.)

But Hogan was a star, with his own slot on the company’s radio programming and multiple books. Rather than fire Hogan, Ramsey and other leaders let Hogan go out on the tour while setting up a “restoration plan” for his marriage.

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That plan failed. And Ramsey began to worry that Hogan had been lying to him.

“I am afraid we are being played after we were warned that he is a world class liar and manipulator,” Ramsey wrote other leaders at his company in an email dated Feb. 25, 2019. The email was part of a trove of documents recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee for the lawsuit filed by Caitlin O’Connor, the former Ramsey employee who claims the company fired her for being pregnant and not married.

“We owe God to steward a huge situation with wisdom and thoroughness,” he went on to write. “If it breaks that he has done some huge things and it looks like we did not dig for truth, and checked boxes, we will not only have lost (name redacted), but will also have a legitimate PR problem of scale, because we covered up a horrible act to line our own pocketbooks.”

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People attend a worship service entitled “Watch the Darkness Flee,” Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, at Ramsey Solutions headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee. (RNS photo by Bob Smietana)

The email did not mention Hogan by name but described a situation identical to his. Hogan’s former wife, Melissa Hogan, confirmed in a phone call with media that the email referred to her former husband, who later left Ramsey Solutions for violating company policy.

Ramsey Solutions did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Chris Hogan.

The company had argued O’Connor was fired for having premarital sex in violation of Ramsey Solutions’ “righteous living” rule. The documents also include depositions of Ramsey and other company leaders, providing insight into the scrutiny that Ramsey’s nearly 1,000 employees are subjected to about their sex lives.

Lawyers for Ramsey Solutions and O’Connor have fought in court for months over the documents, with Ramsey lawyers arguing that they all should be sealed. O’Connor’s lawyer argued that she needed to refer to the depositions and other documents in responding to Ramsey’s motion for summary judgment in the case.

In mid-August, a federal judge ruled that redacted copies of the documents could be filed without seal. 

In one case described in a deposition with Armando Lopez, head of human resources at Ramsey Solutions, the boyfriend of an employee was seen coming out of her apartment “in boxer shorts and a blanket to walk the dog” early on a weekend morning. Another employee, who lived in the same complex, saw the boyfriend and reported the incident to his boss. That led to the employee with the boyfriend being confronted by her boss and later being fired, according to O’Connor’s lawyers.

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Armando Lopez, executive director of human resources at Ramsey Solutions. (Video screengrab via EntreLeadership)

This incident was not considered gossip — also banned by Ramsey — said Lopez. “He went to leadership, he did not go to subordinates or peers,” Lopez said of the employee who reported the incident.

In his deposition, Lopez described another Ramsey employee who got married and then told her boss she was several months pregnant. She was fired as well. In all, more than a dozen Ramsey employees were let go for violating righteous living policies.

“We suspected she had violated company policy, but we didn’t know it until that moment,” Lopez said in the deposition.

The company does not consider all sex acts outside of marriage to be unrighteous. While intercourse outside of marriage is cause for dismissal, oral sex is not, said Ramsey and other leaders in the depositions.

“Our operating board chose sexual intercourse outside of marriage as the line at which a person must leave and the assumption is termination at that point,” longtime Ramsey board member and Human Resources Committee Chair Jack Galloway said at an August 2021 deposition. “Things short of that are more case by case and more at least open for discussion.”

Ramsey Solutions leaders admitted in a deposition that the company’s “righteous living” rules did not bar premarital sex in writing. While the rules are sometimes described as drawn from biblical standards, several company leaders were not able to cite any Bible verses to support their views on marriage and sex. 

In his emails and depositions, Ramsey expresses both Christian concern and contempt for his employees and their families.

After O’Connor emailed her boss to ask about taking maternity leave, Ramsey told other leaders to assure O’Connor that the company would support her.

“Love her,” he wrote to other leaders. “Tell her we will work this out with her next week but she will be loved and cared for.”

But he and other leaders agreed O’Connor’s days at Ramsey were done. One leader called O’Connor “classless” for sending an email rather than talking to her boss in person.

In his deposition, Ramsey said the company was “unbelievably kind” to O’Connor and said in the deposition and his email that her situation was sad.

“It’s sad that apparently she’s going to lose her job for having premarital sex,” he said in a deposition, describing his response to the news about O’Connor. “And there’s a baby involved. And it’s a horrible, horrible situation.”

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Chris Hogan as host of his former popular show on the Ramsey Solutions platform. (Video screen grab)

Ramsey said in his deposition that the company made a mistake in how it handled Chris Hogan’s misconduct. The company knew he had had several affairs, one including oral sex, but kept him on staff.

The Christian finance guru placed most of the blame on Melissa Hogan, who had warned company leaders repeatedly about her then-husband’s conduct. He described her as a “world-class bitch” and not a credible witness. Ramsey also referred to a member of her family as “a hole” after he called the company to complain about Hogan’s conduct.

“I actually think what (sic) his lying and trying to tattle tale is actually worse than actually having an affair,” Ramsey wrote other leaders about Hogan’s relative. “People are stupid.”

Melissa Hogan declined to comment. She did publish a statement on her website in response to the documents.

“There seems to be a pattern of Dave Ramsey believing abusive men with power who benefit him, whether it’s Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, or my ex-husband, and depicting women who allege misconduct as crazy and un-Christian,” Melissa Hogan said. “In my opinion, this is consistent with Dave’s own behavior so that does not surprise me. But what grieves me most is that he does it in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion News Service.



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18 Responses

  1. I’m so grateful O’Connor kept at this and didn’t settle prior to discovery and this unsealing. I have no doubt she could have by now, seeing as this trove would have been worth a LOT to Ramsey to keep sealed.

  2. Ramsey has different rules/consequences for employees depending on how much money they make him. No surprise.

  3. “Righteous living” rules? This guy has made a fortune peddling advice you can basically get for free elsewhere. And then they allow (and act on!) the Soviet-style tell-on-your-neighbor schtick? I agree with the other commenter who commended O’Connor for seeing this case through so that this material can come to light. It seems to me that, once a man sees that a lot of people think he’s right about some things, he starts to think he’s right about almost everything. He thinks that God has blessed his ministry, so how could his judgment be wrong? Especially when he’s enforcing “biblical standards”? I would think he’d be wanting to give jobs to women who find themselves facing a difficult challenge rather than taking them away.

  4. Ramsey seems more like a bully, ala James MacDonald. I’ve listened to his program many times and he comes across as arrogant. Same class as Tony Robbins and the other prosperity people. He doesn’t call it that but that’s what it is…

  5. Ramsey Solutions is mainly a marketing machine. As a former customer, what is an effective way to push back in a manner Dave can’t ignore?

    I believe his style is public ridicule, slander, doxxing and urging his big dog buddies to speak against honorable truth tellers who cause him narcissistic injury or threaten his bottom line.

    It takes top tier hubris for Dave to blow past so many opportunities to dial down his reckless, combative rhetoric over recent years.

    As we see so often, doubling down by abusive, controlling leaders in toxic systems is the irrational choice when light shines on the hidden facts.

    May Dave and his enablers reap what they have sown with interest.

    May the Church soon shout “We’re Dave free!” as they speak truth and love amid the lies, deception and self-interest of another huckster using Jesus as a marketing tool.

    1. One way to push back is to contact the latest sponsor on his show, PODS Moving and Storage, and share your discomfort with how he treats his employees.

    2. The Lord tells us that all things done in the dark will be brought into the light…….Ramsey is not exempt from this truth and I believe this is the new age God is taking the church into.

    3. Thank you for sharing that link. I can’t believe that email to Religion News Service regarding Bob Smietana…its so unbelievably rude and unkind. I would never have thought it came from anything claiming to be Christian. Unfortunately nothing surprises me anymore with regard to so called “christian behavior”…no LOG in his eye!! Thank you Bob and Julie for your reporting. It makes me sad but we have to get serious, see the truth and stop drinking their koolaid!! I’m so sick of so called Christian bullies!! They are everywhere lately.

  6. At Dave Ramsey’s Company, Some Sex Outside Marriage Was OK

    I assume this was another instance of “Rank Hath Its Privileges”, i.e. if you were Ramsey himself, or one of his Inner Ring, or his Court Favorite it was OK with Ramsey (if not with God Himself)?

  7. Wow. Truly jaw-dropping, and yet completely unsurprising.

    I just saw a Spanish language film called “The Good Boss” at the movies last night featuring a man considered by all to be the wonderful and caring boss of an exceptional company. Not surprisingly, as the story progresses, the veil begins to fall and by the end of the movie, you realize that the only thing he’s ever really cared about was his reputation and the reputation of his business, and he would do just about anything to protect them.

    Could have easily been about Dave Ramsey…

  8. The facts are the facts. Good for the former wife for fighting for personal dignity and integrity when really all that mattered to the Ramsey outfit was protecting “the brand”. …$$$…. Righteous living standards. Give me a break. Even that clause itself was there to promote the business to a certain niche of customers who find that so “spiritual”. 6v g
    Ramsey wanted everything sealed. I find that fascinating given the company’s “righteous living” clause. Wink , wink.
    The facts are that the Hogan dude cheated on his wife, or none of this would have happened to begin with.
    Ramsey looks like a fraud because he is telling people to trust biblical principles for their money while getting x amount of dolars to do it.
    Yet he could not trust those same biblical principles to deal with his “highly profitable, yet immoral business partner? Can’ have it both ways bro.
    Man Ramsey looks ridiculous. Truth = easy
    Cover up = hard.

  9. This story seems so typical of modern American Christianity.

    Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

  10. Am I reading this correctly that several women were fired for having premarital sex, but the man was retained after having multiple affairs? Does this company spy on it’s unmarried male employees to make sure they don’t have any pregnant girlfriends? Is this just a money/fame issue, or do these rules only apply to women employees?

    1. The documents detail a male employee who was fired when the company looked at the birth of his child, did the math, and determined that his new wife must have been pregnant prior to their wedding date.

      It’s revolting.

      1. Ah, so the “financial guru” organization has a track record of kicking people with newborns to the curb. Do they have enough knowledge into the lives of these individuals to know if these babies were full-term or preemie? Didn’t Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill have a track record of firing people right before or after the employee had experienced major life changes such as the birth of a child? Hum…

        1. Christians throwing pregnant women out on the sidewalk is the most non-prolife thing anyone could do.

          Keep in mind that Ramsey’s act of cruelty was done in Tennessee, where “prolife” Christian Republicans have for ten years rejected federal money to expand Medicaid, leaving over 100,000 people without medical insurance.

    2. It boils down to how much value an employee brings to the company. Hogan was bringing home the bacon so was given a free pass. This is the way of things.

      I saw an article on former head coach Jon Gruden who’s looking for a way back into the NFL after a trove of his incredibly racist and bigoted emails was made public. He’s unlikely to be given another chance, but as the journalist said in his piece, if he fails to get hired, it won’t be because his past behavior is unforgiveable, it will be because of his poor track record as a coach. He then reeled off a long list of NFL players guilty of far worse than Gruden but were quickly forgiven, and they all have one thing in common — they were very good at their job. If Gruden had been on course to winning the Super Bowl when he was fired, he would already be the head coach of another football team.

      Of course, in a patriarchal business like Ramsey’s, there’s very little chance of any women being valuable enough to overlook their moral “failings” so it’s always going to be the men who get the free pass. In the end, regardless of the morality, it’s always going to be about the money, even in most Christian organizations.

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