A Close Look At Glenn Beck’s Nazarene Fund
Concerns over leadership and finances should motivate caution
Glenn Beck, the conservative media star and founder of Blaze Media, raised nearly $30 million from donors over three days so a charity he promotes, The Nazarene Fund, can fund a private airlift to rescue 7,000 Christians from Afghanistan by the end of the week. Three planes had reportedly left Kabul’s airport by Tuesday.
The Nazarene Fund works closely with Mercury One, a 501(c)3 charity Beck founded in 2011. A statement on The Nazarene Funds FAQ [Frequently Asked Questions] page says, “TNF often works with Mercury One to rescue those in need. However, they are separate organizations but work closely together.”
The Nazarene Fund name comes from nun, the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet, which ISIS once painted on doors of Christians and others who were to be executed. As the group explains: “The word nun stands for Nasara, or Nazarene which is a term in Arabic that expresses contempt or disapproval. Once a sign of death…now a sign of hope.”
Projects Mercury One claims to have funded include: disaster relief in partnership with churches, faith-based organizations; U.S. veteran and active military relief; domestic violence; and an educational initiative designed “to teach future generations the honest history of the godly principals our country was founded upon.” It says it has completed 125 projects to date, most in the Middle East, and claims it has “successfully relocated and supported more than 110,541 Christians and Yazidis.”
Beck has successfully roused his audience to address an urgent need. “WE CAN DO IT AS THE POWER IS WITH THE PEOPLE,” he said via social media. “We are America not our government. When they can’t do it, private citizens step to the plate.”
So what’s not to like? Christians considering a donation to The Nazarene Fund should have concerns about Mercury One and The Nazarene Fund leadership, finance, and overall philosophy.
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Mercury One’s board consists of only three people – Glenn Beck, Nazarene Fund CEO Timothy Ballard, and David Barton, the Christian author and Republican operative. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) requires that its members have at least five board members, with at least three of them being independent.
Beck’s charities would be excluded from ECFA membership on a number of grounds, including the fact that they are not Christian groups, though it is sometimes hard to discern that by looking at the group’s own marketing material and its publicity in the publications of Christian groups that include the Christian Broadcasting Network and Focus on the Family.
In fact, CEO Timothy Ballard is a Mormon father of nine whose leadership of another organization, the sex-trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) has raised significant red flags, as Ministry Watch reported in March, citing the reporting work of Vice, which has published lengthy investigative articles about the group and its problems.
OUR, founded in 2013, is currently under investigation by a Utah county attorney for making misleading statements in its fundraising appeals, a recurring problem as Ballard often overstates the group’s role in rescues, many of them using dramatic, but controversial raids, often with film cameras running. The group settled a lawsuit with one man it falsely claimed was a sex trafficker. OUR also restated claims that it used in fundraising appeals about a college that supposedly provided rescued women with college degrees after Utah State demanded a correction. In addition, the Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force does not work with OUR.
The group also faces claims that its tactics, including flashing money in sex clubs, actually increases demand for trafficked sex workers.
The Sound of Freedom, a film about Ballard that has been described as “upcoming” for years, will star actor Jim Caviezel as Ballard. Ballard and Caviezel appeared at a conference where the actor promoted QAnon conspiracy theories.
As for finances: until the Afghan refugee crisis, recent financial statements show Mercury One was an organization in significant decline. The latest available IRS Form 990 from Mercury One covers the fiscal year that ended December 2019 and shows revenue of just over $7-million, down from a high of $17-million in 2015. It operated at a loss, running a deficit of more than $1.8-million, in part because it spent 16 percent of its revenue ($1.13-million) on fundraising. It had 27 employees and claimed 1,234 volunteers.
In 2017, Warren Throckmorton raised concerns with Mercury One’s spending. In 2013 and 2014, the charity paid $204,000 to David Barton’s WallBuilders organization for helping people facing disasters, even though – according to Throckmortion – “it isn’t clear at all what disaster relief they supplied to anyone.” Mercury One also ceased accepting designated donations, insisting that it knew best how to spend donor gifts.
Despite these concerns, Christian and conservative media continue to pump up the volume on Beck’s efforts.
“Glenn Beck Shares Incredible Update,” reported CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network, which did not mention that Beck and the CEO of his charity, are Mormons. Nor did Focus on the Family’s public policy outlet, The Daily Citizen, in its report.
But The Chronicle of Philanthropy encourages donors to beware of Afghan relief efforts. It reported that fundraising for Afghanistan is quickly ramping up: “Groups raising money for Afghanistan relief also are benefiting from wall-to-wall news coverage of the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover, which in turn increases…pressure…to give.”