Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), an organization focused on combatting human trafficking, has garnered recent media attention, particularly concerning his association with the Mormon church of which he is a member. During fundraising efforts for the organization, he was known to suggest endorsements from church leaders, including a senior church leader and apostle, Elder Ballard (no relation). They were close friends in the past, and Elder Ballard was purportedly informed with details about the efforts and operations of Operation Underground Railroad. The church now refutes the current existence of their friendship, disapproves of the use of church leaders’ names for fundraising without their consent, and has removed references to Tim Ballard from its websites where he was previously praised as a hero.
Tim Ballard has recently departed from Operation Underground Railroad and established another anti-trafficking organization following allegations of his sexual misconduct. Reports indicate that he allegedly manipulated several women into engaging in sexual activities, citing the need to do “whatever it takes” to rescue children. This development did not align with Operation Underground Railroad’s values, even though a recent film titled “Sound of Freedom” portrayed Tim Ballard and the organization’s efforts they chose to sever ties with Tim Ballard.
He has also suggested a run for the Utah seat in the US Senate which will soon be vacated by Mitt Romney, who has announced he will not run for reelection.
OUR Severs Ties with Tim Ballard
Tim Ballard resigned from OUR on June 22, 2023. He has permanently separated from OUR. This was incredibly bad timing, as the Sound of Freedom movie was to be released less than two weeks later on July 4, 2023. Recently the reasons for this seperation were made more clear in official (if reluctant) statement from OUR.
“This resulted in an extensive internal investigation into Tim and his individual operational tactics and led to more women speaking up as part of the investigation process.
“It was ultimately revealed through disturbingly specific and parallel accounts, that Tim has been deceitfully and extensively grooming and manipulating multiple women for the past few years with the ultimate intent of coercing them to participate in sexual acts with him, under the premise of going where it takes and doing ‘whatever it takes’ to save a child.”Allegations against Tim Ballard which led to him being removed as CEO of OUR, Vice, September 18, 2023
The Church Creates Distance
First reported by Vice, by quoting a statement from the church (which was not yet published by the church), the Mormon church stated Elder Ballard “never authorized his name, of the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests”.
President Ballard and Tim Ballard (no relation) established a friendship a number of years ago. That friendship was built on a shared interest in looking after God’s children wherever they are and without regard to their circumstance. However, that relationship is in the past. For many months, President Ballard has had no contact with the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). The nature of that relationship was always in support of vulnerable children being abused, trafficked, and otherwise neglected. Once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association. President Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests.Mormon Church Denounces Tim Ballard’s “Morally Unacceptable” Activities, Vice, September 15, 2023
Tim Ballard Responds with Doubt
Evil pedophiles will stop at nothing, and they have allies in government, in the media, in big corporations, and even in public institutions. They continue to lie about and attempt to destroy my good name…and they will never stop.
“I want everyone to know that I and our vast army of supporters will likewise never stop. We will keep fighting for the vulnerable all over the globe, and we know that the truth will always prevail.”
“I am a faithful Member in good standing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures, and I believe in our faith with my whole heart. That will never change.
“It has been alleged that an unnamed LDS church spokesperson issued a statement about me through a tabloid that is often hostile to people of faith. Further, my church has not publicly verified its authenticity.
“We are also highly suspicious about the timing of such a statement given its close proximity to Mitt Romney’s announcement that he is retiring, and my own public comments that I am prayerfully considering running for public office. The LDS church does not engage in political activity.Tim Ballard Issues Statement Affirming Commitment to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Ballard states that “evil edophiles will stop at nothing” to “destroy my good name” and that the church had not publicly verified the authenticity of its statment. Which was true at the time, but has since done so. So would he be lumping in the church leaders who have now disavowed him and smeared his “good name” with the evil pedophiles?
In another statement he dismisses the sexual abuse allegations as “baseless inventions” and “categorically false”. Tim’s word against the statements from OUR. Though he does have fanatic supporters who believe the conspiracy theories and his statments seem constructed to fuel those theories. They refer to the evil pedophiles who rule many circles and would be in charge or news outlets and smear his name in order to stop his work, so that these evildoers could still get their hands on victimes of human trafficking. Thus the believers will continually fund Tim, no matter what the “media” says about him.
As with all of the assaults on my character and integrity over many years, the latest tabloid-driven sexual allegations are false. They are baseless inventions designed to destroy me and the movement we have built to end the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children.
During my time at O.U.R., I designed strict guidelines for myself and our operators in the field. Sexual contact was prohibited, and I led by example. Given our meticulous attention to this issue, any suggestion of inappropriate sexual contact is categorically false.Tim Ballard Issues Statement Debunking Baseless Sexual Allegations
Church States Ballard’s behavior as “Morally Unacceptable”
Tim Ballard issued a response on his new organization website, doubting the authenticity of the church statement. Later the church verified that the statement was authentic and continued it’s efforts to cancel their previous support of Tim Ballard and his organizations.
The church’s statement to Vice claims it “never endorsed, supported or represented O.U.R., Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them.”
Axios: Mormon rebuke of Tim Ballard ripples through conservative Utah, Erin Alberty, Sep 20, 2023
- Reality check: Axios found multiple laudatory references to the group on the church’s website before they were removed this weekend.
- The church publishing company also printed some of Ballard’s books and sold them via the church’s bookstore.
The church verified that the statement was authentic to vice and even published an article on the site Deseret News, which it owns and operates, with the full statement. It states that Tim Ballard’s unauthorized name-dropping is “morally unacceptable” and reiterates that the church “never endorsed, supported or represented” Tim or his organizations. This is a debatable statement since the church did praise the organizations and sell Tim Ballard’s books (which have now been deleted from the church websites – see below).
President Ballard and Tim Ballard (no relation) established a friendship a number of years ago. That friendship was built on a shared interest in looking after God’s children wherever they are and without regard to their circumstance. However, that relationship is in the past. For many months, President Ballard has had no contact with the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). The nature of that relationship was always in support of vulnerable children being abused, trafficked, and otherwise neglected. Once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association. President Ballard never authorized his name, or the name of the Church, to be used for Tim’s personal or financial interests.
In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never endorsed, supported or represented OUR, Tim Ballard or any projects associated with them.
President Ballard loves children, all over the world. It has been his mission and life’s work to look after them, care for them, and point them to their Savior.Tim Ballard considers run for Senate amid renewed controversy
Tim Ballard Articles Deleted From Church Websites
The church has removed any positive mention of Tim Ballard from their website in the aftermath of their statement against him. These articles were last found on the official church website the night of September 15th. Here are the quoted articles (as well as screenshots), and links to the web archive (wayback machine cached versions – which should be live unless the church presses them to remove them). Attempting to find these articles on the church website today will take you to a broken landing page or redirect you to somewhere else. They are canceling their previous support of Tim Ballard, and attempting (yet again) to rewrite history.
Saving Children: Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad
Last month we were able to sit down with Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard. He and his company run undercover sting operations all over the world with the intent of saving innocent children from the perils of slavery. Ballard says that he feels this is a spiritual responsibility for him as he helps to physically and emotionally save the Lord’s children, one by one.
Tim Ballard has clear blue eyes—piercing, in fact—eyes that have seen far more trouble and fear than you or I probably ever will. But his eyes have also seen immeasurable amounts of gratitude and hope from the innocent young victims he has helped rescue from the horrors of sex slavery. As a former CIA operative he helped found a child crimes unit along with other Christian agents. After a time, he left the CIA and began his own private organization, Operation Underground Railroad, to help as many children as he could with his own “dream team of operatives,” a team he trusts to save children from evil all over the world.
Ballard says that the statistics give him reason enough to do the work he does—over 27 million men, women, and children are currently slaves in some form, and 2 million of them are children. Along with these staggering numbers, the “fundamental reason” he does this work is because of his faith in Jesus Christ. “There’s no question in my mind that this is the Lord’s work and that we are His hands. This is so important because it’s so important to the Lord,” Ballard says. “Children are so vulnerable and innocent and so easy to prey upon—without outside help there is no chance for children. The admonition of the Savior was to love the children. He threatened anyone who would dare offend these little ones.”
During their operations, Ballard, along with members of his team and other volunteers, go undercover to pose as individuals interested in purchasing children. Through a series of carefully planned out situations, done in concordance with local government authorities, the children are safely secured and sent to live in protected orphanages or home environments in their own countries, while the perpetrators are arrested. In 2014, during their first year of operations, Tim and his team successfully rescued 230 children from sex slavery and abuse. This year, they plan to double or triple that number.Dealing with these issues on a regular basis does take a toll on Ballard and his team, but he says that he keeps perspective through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. “I’ve never in my life prayed so hard for the Second Coming,” Ballard says. “The Atonement heals all. It’s our job in the meantime to serve especially the downtrodden and the suffering, to liberate the captive.” To those who want to help but don’t know how, Ballard encourages, “At the least, you can pray for these kids.”
To hear Tim Ballard speak on a recent episode of Mormon Channel Daily, click here.
For information about his organization and new full-length documentary, The Abolitionists,visit www.ourrescue.org.Saving Children: Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad, 03/17/15
“We Had to Seek God”
On Sunday, December 6, 2009, Guesno and Majorie Mardy, members of the Fontamara Ward outside Port-au-Prince, took their six children to church as usual. That day, however, their youngest son, two-year-old Gardy, refused to leave Guesno’s side. “I had to teach classes and administer meetings,” Guesno recalled later, “and he just hung on to my neck, holding me as tightly as possible.”
After the meetings, Guesno sent Gardy to find his mother while he attended to some business. That was the last time anyone in the Mardy family saw Gardy. In just a few minutes, Gardy was abducted by a gang of human traffickers. In the weeks that followed, Guesno did not sleep but walked the streets of Port-au-Prince, hoping to hear Gardy cry out to him.
Just five weeks after Gardy’s abduction, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the area. More than 200,000 were killed, and thousands of children were orphaned. The orphan home Guesno and Majorie operated survived the quake, but the building housing their administrative offices collapsed. In the aftermath, the investigation into Gardy’s abduction halted, and all leads evaporated. As they helped to clear the rubble, buried loved ones, and took newly orphaned children into their care, Guesno and Majorie, however, did not abandon hope of finding Gardy. “We prayed every day. It was one of the moments when we had to seek God,” Guesno said. “I have read the scripture and I have understood that the … disciples of God—they have been through trials, they have suffered.”
Eventually, Guesno found information about an orphanage operating as a front for human trafficking where he believed Gardy might be. He passed this information to Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing children from human trafficking that had pledged to help find Gardy. Working with Haitian authorities, OUR infiltrated the orphanage, arrested the operators, and freed 28 children from the traffickers.
During the operation, Guesno waited in the lobby of a nearby hotel awaiting news. “I was praying very hard that a happy ending could come,” Guesno said. That evening when OUR founder Timothy Ballard arrived at the hotel alone, Guesno knew Gardy had not been found. Guesno wept. After a few moments, he slapped the table.
“But you rescued the twenty-eight kids, right?’ he asked.
“Yes. Of course,” Ballard responded.
“Don’t you see what happened?” Guesno asked. “If I have to give up my son so that these twenty-eight kids can be set free,” he explained, “I will make that sacrifice.”
Although Gardy remains missing, Guesno and Majorie continue to search for him and to work to eradicate child slavery in Haiti. “I feel that it is my duty to get him back,” Guesno said. “I’ll find him. One day something will happen, and I’ll find him.”Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website: Global Histories, Haiti, Stories of Faith: We Had to Seek God
These articles prove that at one point they promoted him. The church also profited off of this support as they (until very recently) sold Tim Ballard’s books on the Desert Books website. This too has been removed but again, can be found on the web archive here. They included this quick bio: “Timothy Ballard received an MA (summa cum laude) in international politics from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and as a special agent for the Department of Homeland Security, and is the founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, which rescues children from child-trafficking organizations throughout the world. He was recently named a Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young. Tim and his wife, Katherine, have nine children.”
The church has publicly distanced itself from a prominent member, and even though this is not an excommunication, it feels similar. They have attempted to erase any support that was given (if indirectly) by deleting articles praising Tim Ballard from the official church website, and stopped selling Tim’s books in the church’s bookstore. They have damaged his social credit among many faithful members and likely destroyed his political momentum before it even began. He doesn’t sound like he’s giving up and in today’s world of Fake News and conspiracy theories, he may still have a base to call his own, despite the church distance.
It is yet to be seen what the entire fallout will be. But whether or not Ballard publicly breaks with the church, the dispute is yet another example of conservative angst within an evolving church that continues to wrestle with how to control its members. As the Latter-day Saints tradition remains firmly entrenched within America’s far-right circles, disputes over final authority, historical truth, and moral initiatives will continue to be contested space.Sound of Freedom’s Tim Ballard Is a Star on the Right. Why Would His Church Denounce Him?
By Benjamin Park, September 18, 2023
- Elder Ballard Gave Mormon Tithing Records to Tim Ballard as Potential OUR Donors
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