'Sound of Freedom' Inspiration Tim Ballard Accused of Alleged Sexual Misconduct: Report
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The former government agent whose story was portrayed by actor Jim Caviezel in the summer blockbuster Sound of Freedom has been accused of sexual misconduct by seven women, according to Vice News. He says the accusations are not true.
Tim Ballard, a former Homeland Security agent, and a Utah native, founded the nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) to fight human trafficking in 2013. His amazing story of rescuing hundreds of children from sex trafficking has been inspiring thousands of moviegoers this year.
But now he is being accused of pressuring the women who were with him on those missions to rescue children. Ballard left the organization in June after an O.U.R. employee filed a complaint against him when they returned home from a trip. The organization's investigation into the complaint led to his resignation, Vice News reported.
The outlet reported its sources said he allegedly intimidated the women into sharing a bed or showering with him, asserting it was essential in order to play the part for traffickers.
Ballard allegedly sent one of the women a photo of himself in his underwear, and purportedly quizzed another on "how far she was willing to go" in order to save children, sources told Vice News.
Ballard has been married to his wife Katherine for more than 20 years. They have nine children with two adopted from Haiti.
In a statement on Monday, a spokesperson for O.U.R. told the outlet Ballard resigned from the nonprofit on June 22 and "has permanently separated from the organization."
"O.U.R. is dedicated to combating sexual abuse, and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization," the statement said. "O.U.R. retained an independent law firm to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all relevant allegations, and O.U.R. continues to assess and improve the governance of the organization and protocols for its operations."
On Tuesday, Ballard released a statement, calling the tabloid-driven sexual allegations "false."
"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," the statement said.
"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," the statement concluded.
Mormon Leaders Rebuke Ballard for Taking Advantage of Church Leader
Meanwhile, on Sept. 15, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints accused Ballard of using the name of a high-level LDS church leader for his own personal gain, and cited "morally unacceptable behavior."
KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City reports the church rebuked Ballard for using President M. Russell Ballard's name to involve the church in his personal and financial interests. M. Russell Ballard, 94, is currently one of the highest Mormon leaders, serving as the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
In a statement to KSTU-TV, church officials said Tim Ballard and the church leader are not related in any way. But they established a friendship "a number of years ago." The statement explains the two men shared a friendship in the past, but that relationship ended.
"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," the statement said.
"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, funded, supported or represented O.U.R., Tim Ballard, or any projects associated with them," the statement concluded.
The church has since removed all of its articles promoting Tim Ballard and O.U.R. from its website, according to KSTU-TV.
Tim Ballard Responds, "It's Not True"
According to Vice News, Tim Ballard gave a speech to a small crowd in Boston, Massachusetts over the weekend in which he said, "It's not true, nothing you hear is true."
On Monday, Ballard released a statement but did not address any of the allegations of sexual misconduct. Instead, he confirmed his commitment to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was released through The Spear Fund, an organization funding and collaborating "to end human trafficking in our time." Ballard serves as a senior advisor for the Providence, Utah-based nonprofit.
"Rescuing kids and fighting child trafficking is an ugly and dark business, especially when—as the result of my work for more than 20 years—we continue to expose members of the powerful, well-funded child trafficking cartels," Ballard's statement said.
"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 and attempt to destroy my good name and defame my character…and they will never stop," the statement continued.
"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," the statement said.
"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," the statement said.
"It has been alleged that an LDS church spokesperson issued a statement about me through a tabloid that is often hostile to people of faith. My church has not publicly verified the statement's 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, my own public comments about my prayers about future plans, and the fact that the LDS church does not engage in political activity," Ballard's statement pointed out.
Multiple news outlets in Utah have since confirmed that an LDS leader did condemn Ballard for betraying the church leader's friendship.
In his statement, Ballard alluded to Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney's retirement from the U.S. Senate. It has been rumored that the former government agent may run for Romney's seat. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who's a close friend of Ballard, said last week he was looking forward to supporting "a great conservative, patriot, and warrior" who would be announcing a Senate run "in the days to come," according to Deseret News.
'Sound of Freedom' Continues to Draw Praise, Box Office Earnings
Meanwhile, praise for the Sound of Freedom's powerful, world-changing impact is still pouring in. The latest kudos come from Colombian bishop Miguel Fernando González Mariño who's thankful the movie has brought the problem of child trafficking in his country to light despite the efforts to discredit the film.
"The topic is ridiculed or its producers are described as fanatics. The truth is that we must thank its brave filmmakers, who, convinced of human dignity and with a deep Catholic faith, have dared to raise a cry: 'God's children are not for sale,'" Mariño wrote on the diocesan website, according to the Catholic News Agency.
A part of Movieguide's review for Sound of Freedom reads: "SOUND OF FREEDOM is gripping and heartbreaking, but hope-giving. The movie sheds light on the need for strong people to stand up for God's children around the world who are caught in the vicious, abusive system of sex trafficking. SOUND OF FREEDOM has a strong Christian, moral worldview that promotes sacrifice and the message that "God's children are not for sale."
As CBN News has reported, the Sound of Freedom continues to lead the box office in 18 countries in Latin America. So far, the movie has made more than $210,578,000 worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
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