National Religious Broadcasters says finances are 'solid' amid reports of possible bankruptcy

Marjorie Dannenfelser, Tony Perkins, Todd Starnes, Larry Elder, and Dennis Prager participate in a panel session on online censorship at Proclaim 18, the National Religious Broadcasters' (NRB) International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 2, 2018.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, Tony Perkins, Todd Starnes, Larry Elder, and Dennis Prager participate in a panel session on online censorship at Proclaim 18, the National Religious Broadcasters' (NRB) International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 2, 2018. | Photo: National Religious Broadcasters

National Religious Broadcasters is on firm financial footing, a spokesperson said after reports that the organization is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Independent investigative journalist Julie Roys claimed in a report on her website Thursday that the National Religious Broadcasters is experiencing several financial woes and the problems went unnoticed until recently.

The Christian Post reached out to NRB for comment, specifically inquiring about the financial standing of the organization. 

Craig Parshall, NRB general counsel, responded in an email Monday: "Because the Internet is filled with bloggers citing 'facts' that can be inaccurate, outdated, misleading (or even defamatory), the National Religious Broadcasters association practices restraint in responding to blog posts."  

"Regarding NRB itself, the membership of our association has enthusiastically responded in a remarkable way to the financial challenges arising over the last few years. NRB’s present status is solid, its future is bright, its mission is focused and its impact has been renewed."

Jerry Johnson, former president and CEO of NRB, resigned in February. Two months later he reportedly emailed the group's board, which was leaked to Roys, and demanded more severance and health insurance, benefits he claims he had been promised. Johnson also sought arbitration and said he would seek damages against NRB if they did not comply. 

"But NRB has no money," Roys wrote, noting how other leaked email correspondence she received shows NRB treasurer Frank Wright explaining how the organization had suffered just under $900,000 of operating losses since 2014 and “has been financially insolvent for each of the last three fiscal years.”

One month after that, Wright sent the board another email explaining that NRB needed $750,000 by the end of May or they would have to file bankruptcy and reorganize and that no national convention would happen in 2020. NRB's annual convention has been a significant source of revenue for the organization since its inception 75 years ago.

In response to both Johnson's demands for more severance and health insurance and the financial issues besetting the organization, NRB chairman and national radio host Janet Parshall wrote in an email to the board that the group had faced unprecedented financial deficits, spending had increased, and membership had decreased. NRB's core mission had been "left to wander in the desert of neglect,” Parshall explained. 

“Adding to that, the past President and CEO, who was at the helm of NRB’s ‘ship of state’ when these very same troubles originated and continued to accelerate, has now launched a legal threat against us in a one-sided mass email that is fraught with inaccuracies and unfounded conclusions, to put it graciously.”

Janet Parshall's husband, Craig, is representing NRB pro-bono with regard to Johnson's claims. She urged the NRB board to donate sacrificially to keep the organization going. 

NRB's financial troubles, however, are deeper than the most recent issues, Roys wrote. The group has been operating in the red in almost every year since 2002. The organization's 990 tax forms reveal that from 2003-2013, NRB lost approximately $1.3 million in net assets. And, the organization has also seen a decline in memberships over the years. 

Yet despite this trend, the NRB continues to be accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. EFCA President Dan Busby told Roys in a statement that "it is common for organizations to have some years where operating revenues exceed expenses or vice versa." 

"ECFA’s key interest on this topic is the overall viability and sustainability of the organization.” 

The ministry watchdog group was aware of recent financial challenges at NRB and was "actively monitoring" it, Busby added.

CP also reached out to NRB members who have expressed concern about the financial issues documented by Roys but did not receive a response by press time. This article will be updated once a comment is received. 

Members of the NRB who spoke with Roys insisted that the NRB must continue given the role they play in government.

“The NRB is very much needed to defend the First Amendment for Christian radio, TV, and Internet, and to lobby for it before legislators,” said Rick McClary, a station manager of Minnesota Christian Broadcasters, which is an NRB member.

“Other associations aren’t going to do it for us. . . . The NRB has to be to the First Amendment what the NRA is to the Second Amendment. I agree with that.”

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