By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
Not everyone was thrilled by the evangelists touring the public-school circuit on the taxpayer dime. Though Smith brags about the binder of referrals from satisfied customers, his visits have just as often been met with criticism that they blur the separation between church and state.
"It's kind of a double injury," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, who, as founder of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed several complaints against Smith's ministry. "They're preying on students, and they're being paid by school districts to do so."
But the critics didn't silence Smith and MacAulay. In 1999, the two established You Can Run as a tax-exempt religious nonprofit.
They began touring high schools full-time. At a couple of thousand tax-free dollars per appearance, the money was rolling in. In 2001, the ministry made $212,230 in revenue, according to tax records.
A FEW YEARS AFTER incorporating the roving ministry, Smith wanted to establish You Can Run as a full-blown church. In doing this, he hired Glen Stoll, a lawyer who specializes in setting up tax shelters for religious organizations, to create trusts for the ministry.
But Stoll wasn't the average tax lawyer. In addition to his firm, Stoll had close ties to an organization called "The Embassy of Heaven."
Based out of Stayton, Oregon, the Embassy of Heaven acts as an alternative government for religious zealots. It offers passports, business licenses, driver's licenses, and more.
So many of the Embassy's members have gone to jail that the organization brags about it with a running list of martyrs on its website. There's even a book that teaches its members how to "not fear" jail, an inevitable part of following God, according to the Embassy.
"If you have given your allegiance to Jesus Christ, and you live your beliefs, you will go to jail," reads the introduction to the book. "It is inevitable because the world will hate you."
In 2005, Stoll was served with a federal injunction for giving religious nonprofits illegal tax advice, according to court documents. One of his clients, a theme-park mogul named Kent Hovind, was charged with 58 counts of federal tax fraud, and is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.
Stoll is visibly a touchy subject with Smith. "I had nothing to do with that individual," he says. "Glen promised us the world, and then judgment was brought against him by an attorney."
Though Smith admits doing business with Stoll, he denies his ministry did anything illegal. Smith also notes that he has since taken legal action against Stoll to distance his ministry from Stoll's services.
Smith is equally reticent about the subject of the Embassy, but he had a registered license with the group that expired only last year. When asked about this, he writes it off as more "hurtful crap" perpetuated by his critics, not even worthy of comment.
"If I can be so bold as to say this, man—bro—we're in this together," Smith says. "It was Martin Luther King that said we're going to go down in history as fools unless we can come together on this."
YOU CAN RUN EVENTUALLY did re-file as a church called Old Paths. Because the IRS demands almost no paperwork from religious organizations, public records are scant. MacAulay describes Old Paths as a place to instruct missionaries.
"Its purpose is to basically train leaders," MacAulay says.
Some of these "leaders" went on to make up You Can Run's street team, a small group of mostly young ministers that hangs out in front of Walmarts and gas stations to collect donations.
In 2008, after You Can Run reestablished itself as a nonprofit, the group's fortunes rose quickly. The ministry collected $385,670 in revenue that year, according to tax records.
The following year, the church's earnings nearly tripled. Tax records show You Can Run claimed $985,319 in revenue for 2009. Both MacAulay and Smith nearly doubled their salaries, to $42,028 and $51,303 respectively, plus "other compensation" that included a housing allowance and added $24,869 for MacAulay and $45,887 for Smith.
MacAulay, who keeps the books for You Can Run, says the ministry re-established as a nonprofit in 2008, so tax records don't account for the full year's earnings. He also says the ministry received a large in-kind donation of equipment in 2009. But the tax records show that the largest source of income that year by far—$444,126—came from donations picked up by the street team.
MacAulay couldn't say exactly how many people are on the street team, but estimates there are about six members at any one time. By this math, each member brought in an average of $74,000.
To reach that annual haul, each street team member would have to take in $202 from donations each day and never take a single day off—including Sunday.
"That causes my antennae to go up," says Boston. "That's a lot of money to raise for a small group like that."
BACK AT YOU CAN RUN headquarters in Annandale, a pack of kids play with plastic swords, looking for something to stab.
"That's the one you want to get," says MacAulay, gesturing toward the intruding journalist.
Formerly the Annandale firehouse, the enormous office serves as a second home for ministry members. There's a classroom where kids are home schooled in the back, several spacious offices, and a radio studio where Smith broadcasts his Sons of Liberty show. One room is stacked floor to ceiling with You Can Run merchandise, and there are reserves piled up in the garage.