Mercury One Exaggerates Relationship with the Lincoln Library and Museum

Last week, I wrote about Mercury One’s place in a scandal involving the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois. In 2018, Glenn Beck and David Barton borrowed a copy of the Gettysburg Address from the Lincoln Museum for a Mercury One exhibit in Dallas. A anonymous complaint triggered an investigation by the IL Inspector General into allegations that the Gettysburg Address was improperly loaned out to Beck and Barton. The IG report confirmed those allegations. The report asserted that the former museum executive director should not have loaned the document given the slipshod logistical arrangements for the transfer and exhibit and the poor reputation of David Barton as a historian. The executive director was fired and the chief operating officer was allowed to resign.

After writing about the IG report, I noticed that Mercury One still lists the Lincoln Museum as a partner on a website devoted to one of the organization’s exhibits — 12 Score and 3 Years Ago. On that page, Mercury One claims: “For the first time, the exhibit is partnering with five world-class organizations including: The African American Museum of Dallas, The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Frontiers of Flight Museum, and Dallas Historical Society.”

I asked Dave Kelm, general counsel for the museum, if the Lincoln museum had any kind of partnership. After some research, he responded as follows:

So there was no partnership. Mercury One bought some pictures of the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation. Mercury One tried to borrow the Emancipation Proclamation from the Lincoln Museum and the museum staff turned them down because of David Barton’s reputation and the faulty processes used in the transfer of the Gettysburg address.

I think this is called spin or reputation management. Certainly the truth is different than the hype. In fact, the Lincoln museum declined to lend Mercury One an article because “under no circumstances” should the museum “be associated with him [David Barton].” Here is the expanded quote from Dr. Samuel Wheeler, Illinois state historian and Carla Smith, museum registrar:

Dr. Wheeler said that based on what he later learned about Mr. Barton, he believed that “under no circumstances” should the ALPLM be associated with him. Ms. Smith said that if she had known what she later learned about Mr. Barton’s reputation, the 2018 loan would have been an “instant no.”

The Problem with the Mercury One/Wallbuilders’ Internship Program

Monday, Glenn Beck devoted some time on his broadcast to graduates of Mercury One’s internship program. The program went from June 5-16 and featured history lessons taught by David Barton.  The segment of the broadcast gave time to the participants to debrief about what they learned. Watch (the embed feature no longer works so try this link):

The comments from students provide a window into the problems with the internship. It appears that these students have a lot to unlearn. Worse, they don’t seem to know it.
For instance at 1:24 into the segment, the second student who spoke, Sonja, said

Mr. Barton showed us the Quran that was actually printed in 1803, I believe, by Jefferson after the Barbary wars, and the thought, the idea that the leaders of the country would not only say, hey, this would be a good idea to learn but they encouraged promoted that to learn about people who were different, to learn, not that they were terrible people, not slandering them, but saying this is who they are, this is what they are about. That is a completely different approach to knowledge and truth than we have today.

My point is not to fault Sonja for her fact problems but to fault her teachers for providing a completely misleading narrative (which Barton has usedGlenn Beck Interns before). Sonja has been misled on two important points.

Jefferson did not print a Quran in 1803 or any other year.

The first version of the Quran printed in America was published in 1806. You can peruse a copy here; there is no mention of Jefferson or the government. The translation from a 1647 French version was originally conducted in 1649 and then reprinted by Henry Brewer for Springfield, MA publisher Isaiah Thomas in 1806 (source). Brewer and Thomas may have capitalized on the interest in Islam during Jefferson’s terms as president since we were at war with several Islamic nations. However, Jefferson had nothing to do with the printing. (Source, source)

The leaders of the U.S. didn’t print a Quran, so they couldn’t have encouraged the public in the manner described.

There was no concerted effort by the government to educate the public in the manner described. While the publisher may have hoped to discourage Islam, I can find no evidence that the publisher and the government acted on such a motive. (Source, source)

Beck Doubles Down on the False Narrative

After Sonja spoke, Glenn Beck compounded the error by suggesting Congress printed the Quran without comment for a purpose. Beck said:

There’s something specific about that struck me that was unusual. It wasn’t Congress or anybody around Jefferson that said, ‘hey, we are going to print these excerpts.’ They printed the entire thing, without comment in it. They just said, ‘you need to read this whole thing.’ That is not what we do now.

First, the government didn’t print the Quran. Second, the printers of the 1806 Quran did include comment which was quite judgmental of Islam, calling the contents of the book “absurdities.”
I challenge Barton or Beck to provide a primary source supporting the claim that Congress or Jefferson had anything to do with the 1806 edition of the Quran. I will apologize and remove this post if they can do that.
Beck titled his segment, Mercury One Arms New Generation of Leaders With Truth-Detecting Tools. Unfortunately, if today’s broadcast is any indication, these students have been disarmed. They won’t be able to be effective because they are now confidently misinformed. Because of the video, we know who is responsible.
I also invite any of the students to contact me about their experience.

Instead of Spending $375 on a Mercury One/Wallbuilders Intership, Buy These Books

Yesterday, Right Wing Watch reported that Glenn Beck and David Barton are planning to offer internships this summer to pre-college students via Mercury One. In addition to travel, food and lodging, Mercury One will charge $375 for the experience. Since David Barton is involved, one simply should not trust that the history will be accurate. Why Glenn Beck continues to hitch his wagon to Wallbuilders still puzzles me.
Here is an alternative. Instead of spending money on travel and expenses and even a penny on tuition, consider buying the following books for yourself or your children in order to get an accurate view of American history. This list costs far less than $375 and will leave you plenty of funds to buy coffee, ice cream floats, or whatever you prefer to drink while reading good books.
Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? Revised Edition: A Historical Introduction by John Fea
American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea by John Wilsey
The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution by Gregg Frazer
Faith and the Presidency From George Washington to George W. Bush by Gary Scott Smith
God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution by Thomas Kidd
One Nation Under God: Christian Faith and Political Action in America by Mark Noll
The Search for Christian America edited by Mark Noll, George Marsden and Nathan Hatch
One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin Kruse
The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Smithsonian Edition, by Thomas Jefferson
First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Freedom by Randall Balmer, Lee Groberg, and Mark Mabry
And of course, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President by Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter
This Gospel Coalition piece by Justin Taylor adds a few more good books (see especially the books by Finn and Green).
I am sure I am overlooking many other good books. I hope commenters and authors alike will send me suggestions and additions via email and in the comments section. The above is just a start and will reward your $375 with a much better foundation than the Mercury One internship.

Glenn Beck Wants Transparency at Mercury One; Here's How He Can Start

Today, on the second hour of his radio show, Glenn Beck spoke briefly about the charity he founded, Mercury One. Listen:

Transcript:

We’re just going through an audit and I said to, Mercury One, I want the toughest auditors you can possibly find. Now that’s Mercury One, I’m not even on the board of Mercury One but I went to the board and said, ‘you guys should have the toughest audit and I want to see every page ’cause I’m raising most of the money for you. I want to see every page. And if there’s something wrong, I want the audience to know. If there’s something right, I want the audience to know. I think they should publish it on the website. We have to be transparent in everything we do and that means you too.

The audit may be in part a reaction to my recent articles about changes at Mercury One. Mercury One changed their donation allocation policy to avoid designated funds. Now all donations go into a general fund which may be spent as the leadership decides.
naz signAn issue which may have raised the need for an audit is the question about what David Barton did with the $104,000 given to him by Mercury One while Barton served as board chairman. Mercury One gave Wallbuilders (Barton’s charity) $204,000 in 2014 and 2015 combined.  The IRS 990 reporting form for one of those years said Barton used the funds to help people with “unforeseen disasters.” Historically, Wallbuilders has not been engaged in disaster relief.
On transparency, I have asked Mercury One several questions but there has been no response.
If Glenn Beck wants to be transparent, he could start by getting David Barton to acknowledge academic fraud. Over six months ago, Barton claimed on camera that he had an earned degree. As it turns out, the degree was given by a diploma mill.
He could also have Barton admit that he never played Division One NCAA basketball for Oral Roberts University.
If Beck really wants transparency, he could start with Mercury One’s chairman of the board.

Via Glenn Beck and David Barton, Mercury One Declares War on Education

David Barton has been at war with higher education for many years. Glenn Beck gets involved from time to time but has decided to throw in with Barton’s war in a big way via his charity Mercury One. For $375, students (18-25 years old) can go to Mercury One and learn history from Barton and Beck. According to Beck, when it comes to having historical answers, “I guarantee you the professors in college will have the wrong answer.” Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEsIu6qCPzc[/youtube]
According to the Mercury One website, students will be taught about the following topics:

  • A Biblical Worldview
  • The Truth in History
  • America’s Godly Heritage
  • Early Education in America
  • How the Bible Influenced America
  • American Exceptionalism
  • God and the Constitution
  • Reclaiming the Land

When I first began to examine Mercury One, I had respect for Beck’s willingness to use his platform to help rescue religious minorities from ISIS held territories.  However, of late, Mercury One has shifted the focus of charitable work to education. Donations are no longer accepted strictly for rescue work. With Barton and Beck trying to expand Barton’s influence through miseducation, I can’t see any reason to donate to the organization.
For students thinking about attending the program, please consider the other skills you could learn during your stay at Mercury One.

Former Mercury One Donors Speak Out About Recent Changes

naz signIn response to my series of articles on the changes taking place at Mercury One, I have been contacted by Mercury One donors. Two such donors, now former donors, agreed to comment anonymously about the changes in focus and donation allocation policy.
Lack of Communication
One source of frustration for the former donors is the lack of communication from Mercury One. Without my posts, these donors would not have become aware that the changes had been made. The former donors said, “We did not receive any notification that restricted funds would be moved to a general fund.” Since the policy changes are buried on the websites, I can understand how donors would feel this way. If Mercury One is serious about going in this direction, they need to alert all donors and display the changes where they can be easily seen.
Reasons Questioned
Furthermore, the reason for the change did not ring true. “The focus of our giving is to support humanitarian initiatives and that is why we could align with and completely support The Nazarene Fund. The statement that Mercury One made concerning donations will be made to one fund because it allows them to give funds more quickly/easily just doesn’t make sense,” claimed the former donors. These individuals said Mercury One portrayed their response to past disasters as being rapid. The donors did not recall any mention of this limitation in the past.
History Museum
One of the reasons declared by the former donors for not giving relates to solicitations for a history museum by David Barton and Glenn Beck (see this post). They said, “We saw the history museum presentation by David and Glenn and will not be giving to this cause. We believe a donation to the museum fund does not effect change in the lives of hurting people but rather benefits Mercury One.”
Financial Statements
Now that donations are not being taken for the Nazarene Fund, the former donors would like a financial accounting. They said, “Another concern we have is that to date we have not received nor have we seen financial accounting on the Nazarene Fund.” In fact, there is very little reporting about funds received and spent on the websites. Donors might be more confident in Mercury One if fund balances were published on the website.
New Donation Allocation Policy
The former donors added, “Then we saw the posting of Mercury One’s new fund allocation policy, which causes us great concern. In our opinion that is not a decision to be made by them, that is a decision that donors should make. Since their organization has decided they will be in charge of placing our monies where they think best then we will not be giving to Mercury One. We are very concerned with the changes we have seen and can no longer support their initiatives.”
Overall, these donors expressed disappointment and confusion about the change of focus and the change in donation allocation.
I have reached out to Mercury One via their website, email and Twitter without response. Other donors who wish to share their experiences should feel free to contact me.

With Changing Focus, Mercury One No Longer Taking Restricted Fund Donations for Nazarene Fund

naz signSince late 2015, one of the flagship projects of Mercury One has been the Nazarene Fund. On the Nazarene Fund website, the purpose of the fund is described:

For several years, ISIS has invaded peaceful communities in the Middle East and painted the Nazarene symbol on the door of people they seek to convert, extort, or murder. While ISIS uses the Nazarene sign to symbolize death, we use the sign to symbolize life. Mercury One is a US based humanitarian aid and education non-profit organization that established and administers The Nazarene Fund. The Nazarene Fund aids in the restoration of Christians and other persecuted religious minorities and their communities who have been targeted by ISIS for their faith.

The Nazarene Fund was born out of Glenn Beck’s desire to help Christian refugees in ISIS held territories: Again, from the website:

In 2014, the Christian community in Syria and Iraq were facing the greatest calamity in its 2000 year history. The Islamic State (ISIS), exploded out Raqqa, Syria, the capital of its self-proclaimed Islamic State. In a lightning strike that surprised the world, ISIS forces captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city) and all of the nearby Nineveh plain – the traditional homeland of the region’s Christian Community. What followed was campaign of extortion, murder and displacement not only of the Christians but of other ethnoreligious minorities in the region. By 2015 a population of 3 million people was reduced to 300,000 – most of them displaced from their homes and fleeing to other countries.
In August of that year, Glenn Beck took the stage and the Restoring Unity rally in Birmingham, AL and declared the situation for what it was – genocide. Mercury One donors immediately responded and The Nazarene Fund was launched with a goal of rescuing 400 families.

Recently, however, the focus of this fund has changed. First, consistent with my recent reports, donations to the Nazarene Fund are now going to benefit Mercury One generally. Mercury One doesn’t want to accept donations just for the Nazarene Fund. This message was recently added to the Mercury One page set up to accept donations to the Nazarene Fund:
 
Naz fund donations 3 23 17Second, Mercury One appears to be getting out of the refugee rescue business. According to the Nazarene Fund website, the need is not the same as it was in 2015.
Naz Fund New Focus
I am skeptical that the situation in Syria and elsewhere has improved to the degree implied here.
In any case, donors should be aware that Mercury One doesn’t want to accept restricted donations, even for the Nazarene Fund, and going forward, won’t be focusing on rescuing religious minority families.

Mercury One Clarifies How Donations Will Be Handled; Some Restricted Donations Allowed

Last week, Mercury One, founded by Glenn Beck, announced that all donations would be consolidated into one fund. In the past, Mercury One created various funds to accomplish specific goals. Donations to those funds (e.g., the Nazarene Fund for rescue of refugees) had to be spent on fund purposes. For instance, funds donated to rescue refugees could not be spent on purchasing historical artifacts.
At the time, I took a skeptical view of the changes. In my opinion, charities are more accountable when donors can specify how their funds are to be used. In practice, I think a charity should have an all purpose fund as well as specific funds for specific needs. The balances in these funds should be known to the public.
The Changes Were Changed
Apparently, somebody at Mercury One decided that the initial changes needed to be modified. Today, on the same blog post, the wording of the announcement has been changed. See below for the current announcement. The new material is in bold print:

Mercury One stands for doing the right thing and throughout our five-year history, Mercury One has done just that. While the needs change from season to season, the constant is that Mercury One has been there to respond to those in need. We know that you, our family of supporters and donors, are vital to our mission. One of the reasons we have had so much success with our humanitarian projects and The Nazarene Fund is because people like you have trusted us to be effective and make a real difference in people’s lives. Thank you!
If you have supported Mercury One in the past, or have followed our journey through Glenn Beck, you may know that for each need, we created a separate funding campaign so that we could allocate every penny of your gift to support each specific initiative. It has been amazing to see the outpouring of passion and support for these projects, but it also prohibited Mercury One from immediately distributing funds quickly when a new and urgent need arose.
Beginning in March 2017, Mercury One is streamlining the way we receive and allocate donations. Going forward, all gifts will go directly to Mercury One. We want to be able to respond more swiftly, and to do this, we are consolidating future gifts (unless otherwise specified) to a single account so we can be more nimble and react immediately when a need arises.
Donor intent is very important to us. Any restricted gift made to Mercury One has gone to support that specific cause. Mercury One has no intent of reallocating funds on any active funding campaign where the need still exists. For example, if you gave a restricted gift to Disaster Relief, to Veterans initiatives or to The Nazarene Fund, your gift will still be distributed to support that campaign.
At any point, if a donor sends a restricted gift, Mercury One will honor the intent of the gift. If there are no projects that would fit that gift, then Mercury One will communicate directly with the donor and at the direction of him/her will either redirect the gift to another project or return the gift.
We have been extremely honored to be able to partner with you, our donors, to make an impact in the world, whether it be to support disaster relief, veterans, those in crisis through our grant programs, or assisting Christians and other persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. Our mission remains constant. We will continue to support humanitarian aid and education initiatives throughout our nation and the world. What is different, is that we will no longer raise funds for single projects nor for a General Fund to support daily operations. What stays the same is that Mercury One will continue to be conservative in our administrative spending and open with our hearts as we provide assistance to those in need.
We thank you for your continued support and partnership in restoring the human spirit.

Looks like a lawyer(s) got involved and crafted some language that is an improvement over the prior post. This approach seems more reasonable and transparent. Donors can submit gifts with instructions and if Mercury One can accommodate the donor’s intent, the charity will do so. If not, the money will be returned. All donations not otherwise designated will go to the general account for use as decided by the charity’s leaders.
Last I checked Mercury One still had a link to the Nazarene Fund. Donors who want to give to that fund should ask what those funds will support. Furthermore, one should not assume that donations made from the Nazarene Fund website will go toward that purpose. I still believe Mercury One should either remove that page or make it crystal clear (not buried in a blog post) on the front page that donations will only go to the purposes of the Nazarene Fund if the donor explicitly designates the gift for that purpose.
 

Mercury One Gave $104,000 to a Wall Builders Charity Which Had Its Tax Exempt Status Revoked

Last year and then again recently, I pointed out that the charity founded by Glenn Beck, Mercury One, gave David Barton’s Wallbuilders $204,000 over a two year period from 2013-2014. The grants are complicated by the fact that David Barton is chair of the board at Mercury One. When I reported this, I neglected to point out that the recipient organization for one of those grants ($104,000 in 2014) was stripped of tax exempt status in 2011 by the IRS for failing to submit yearly forms. Look at Mercury One’s 990 report for 2014 on this grant to Wall Builders:
mercury one 990 Wallbuilders 2014
Notice the employer identification number: 22-3252844 (different than the number for Barton’s Wallbuilders Presentations). This is a federal identification number for a non-profit titled Wall Builders LLC. The address on the Mercury One’s website is the same as David Barton’s non-profit version of Wallbuilders Presentations. The first problem is that the gift is for “unforeseen disasters” which Wallbuilders has no obvious history of doing in a formal manner.
The second problem is that the grant was given to a Wallbuilders which was inactive.  However, tracking the EIN at the IRS, I learned that this organization had its tax exempt status revoked in 2011.
Bartons tax revoked.
Oddly, the address is in NJ* and not Texas as it says on the 990. In any case, this organization appears to be inactive and is unable to accept donations on a tax exempt basis.
Natural questions are: Where did those funds go and how were they used?
 
*322 Glassboro Road in Williamstown, NJ doesn’t appear to be an actual address, but may reflect the fact that Glassboro Road is US Route 322. It isn’t clear why the addresses are different. I asked Mercury One for clarification on the grant to this Wall Builders but did not get a response.
UPDATE: It is possible that the EIN is a mistake. Or perhaps Mercury One gave money to a Wall Builders in NJ (even though no one at the church knew about it when I called, there is one listed at St Matthews Baptist Church on Glassboro Road in Williamstown, NJ) but the wrong address was listed in the 990 form.

Mixed Donation Allocation Signals from Mercury One

Tuesday, I wrote about changes in the donation allocation at Mercury One. The Texas-based charity was founded by Glenn Beck with David Barton as the current chair of the board of directors. After years of allowing donors to focus their giving to a particular cause (e.g., disaster relief, helping refugees or even the general administration of the charity), Mercury One announced on their blog that all donations from now on would go into one fund:

Beginning in March 2017, Mercury One is streamlining the way we receive and allocate donations. Now, all gifts will go directly to Mercury One. We want to be able to respond more swiftly, and to do this, we are consolidating future gifts to a single account so we can be more nimble and react immediately when a need arises.

Despite this posting, Mercury One has not eliminated solicitations for giving to specific causes. For instance, when you land on the Mercury One website, at the very top of the page, there is a button that when clicked takes you to another website soliciting donations for “The Nazarene Fund.”
Merc One with Naz button sm
Up until recently, that fund has been dedicated to rescue and restoration of refugees. I asked Mercury One how much money was left in that fund but I did not get a reply.
Just a few days ago, a donor landing on Thenazarenefund.org and then scrolling toward the bottom of the page would find an image with Nazarene Fund t-shirts and a caption that reads “All proceeds go to the Nazarene Fund.”
Naz Fund Proceeds benefit
Now, the same images are there but with a different caption:
Naz fund proceeds benefit MO
While it is good that the caption has changed, it seems odd that the Nazarene Fund page is still active. Is there a dedicated Nazarene Fund or not? According to the new donation allocation policy, there is only one account. However, having a page advertising specific activities associated with a specific fund implies that donations to that page will go toward the purposes of that fund. If the new policy is truly in effect, then donations made from the Nazarene Fund page could actually go to some other purpose.  The longer this stays up, the more likely it is that donors could question how donations given as a response to this solicitation have been used.