In late May, pastor Bradley Dean Smith, the subject of this week's feature, launched himself into the public eye by delivering a controversial prayer on the floor of the Minnesota Legislature.
Smith, better known as Bradlee Dean, was originally invited to deliver the morning prayer by Rep. Ernie Leidiger (R-Mayer). After Smith used the opportunity to accuse Barack Obama of being the first president to not believe in Jesus, Leidiger denounced Dean, telling reporters the invite was an "honest mistake."
Though the Capitol prayer has received the most media scrutiny, it's not the first time Smith's ministry has been called controversial.
Smith has also been criticized for performing at public schools assemblies on the tax payer dime (read more about that and Smith's path to God in part 1 of this interview).
City Pages sat down with Smith at his Annandale headquarters in July and spent several hours discussing his ministry and the controversy surrounding it, including his relationship with Glen Stoll, an attorney who was served with a federal injunction in 2005 for giving bad tax advice.[jump]
CP: There's this organization that you had gotten a license from, the Embassy of Heaven--
BDS: You know what, I brought forth a judgment on that individual. I had nothing to do with that individual.
CP: You're talking about Glenn Stoll?
BDS: That's right. I bought two trusts. As a matter of fact, they didn't even set the trusts up. And what happened was we were operating as a church, because we were a church, in north Minneapolis on Broadway. And then what happened was, we started to find out that it was - for what little that I did know of Glen, Glen promised us the world... and then judgment was brought against him by an attorney. That's the gist of that.
CP: Ok, I knew he had some affiliation with the Embassy of Heaven, but I thought that they were separate from his law firm?
BDS: I have no idea. I have no idea. I never got involved to know a thing about him. It's not even really worthy of comment. It never has been.
One [blogger] took my judgment and he turned it upside-down on its head. So in other words, instead of saying Bradlee did the right thing by doing what he did, he turned it like I did something wrong. Well, the fact of the matter is, irregardless, did Bradlee Dean pay his taxes? Yeah. So what's the issue? There isn't one. Because that's what anybody would bring up the issue to be anyway.
Here's a good question: Do you think I would do what I do and say what I say if I thought I was doing anything wrong? No way. No way. I'm trying to right the wrongs and look out for posterity. Because no one ever took the time to do that for me.
I've been accused of everything under the sun. And it's like, I've told people, I should almost put it online, "I'll give you a thousand dollars if you can prove that."
Again, these articles that you've written, nobody bothered calling me. They just went and started affiliating me with everyone under the sun. If I shake someone's hand, I'm his best friend going door to door in his gubernatorial candidacy. Give me a break! What's scary about it, is that it's the grown ups doing this. This isn't like a bunch of kids hanging out doing what they're doing, and if I can be so bold as to say this, man, bro, we're in this together. You know it was Martin Luther King that said we're going to go down in history as fools unless we can come together on this.
And just, it's hurtful crap people say. And they say, well, you're a public person. But then you think about Jesus Christ up on the cross being crucified, and what was he crucified for? He was crucified for their sins. That's a hard lesson to learn, man.
CP: I get that you feel like you've been treated unfairly by the media.
BDS: Can I interject? Some of these people, even the guy who has attacked me the hardest, every year he'll call me and say, "Can I come to your gala?" And the first couple years, I said, "Yeah come on out."
And he used to come out. And every single time he'd come out, he would take what I - I got some of this stuff on film, where I directly went after him, and said, "Tell the homosexual communities that we're called to love on them."
My heart towards the homosexual community is not one of hate. I'm trying to tell people, and nobody ever told me, and guess what, it's hard for everybody. And it's not just the homosexuals. It's the adulterers, it's the fornicators, it's the liars, it's the thieves. For some reason, I've spent more time on this one individual, and it just got to the point where I said I can't even answer the guy anymore. And the reason I don't answer him, because no matter what I say, I already see what he's going for.
CP: I can't guarantee that this article will come out and that you're going to love it.
BDS: I'm not saying that. That's fine.
CP: You kind of alluded to Tom Emmer. I know that Emmer and Michele Bachmann are people who have been affiliated with you.
BDS: No, no, no. I never affiliated myself with them, nor did they affiliate with me.
Tom Emmer came to one of our gala events, just like 500 other people did.
CP: Do you know him personally?
BDS: I never met him, I never talked to him. I'm out in the front in the ministry, so a lot of this stuff I don't do. Like when we do, for example, the premieres, I'm not making calls, I'm doing the videos.
I shook hands with Tom Emmer at the State Fair...and after I shook his hand, we became best friends, according to the press. What I know of Tom, I think he's a cool guy.
CP: What about Michele Bachmann? Do you know her personally?
BDS: I'm glad Michele is where she's at. Look at me, that's it. Do I know her on a personal note? If she was to walk down the street, would she look at me and say, "That's Bradlee Dean?" She doesn't even know me that way.
A couple years ago, she did a video at one of her events. She did a video for us. And then, when we were a baby ministry, I think we had 145 people come to it, and I actually shook Michele Bachmann's hand. That's my extent of knowing Michele Bachmann.
BDS: Let me ask you a question. What has been the kickback since day 1? The gay agenda. And 90 percent of it is the gay agenda.
CP: How big is your street team?
BDS: Well first of all, now some of the questions you're asking me for, if I was talking to the average Joe, I'd know what you're going for.
What specific do you want to know?
CP: I'm interested in how many people, but I think what you're going to say, is [City Pages] wrote about the Walmart issue.
BDS: Yeah, that's offensive. You can't stand in front of a store until you pass their test, per se. You have to give them an exemption form. The secretary of state has all that information. But people don't just let anybody come and hang out in front of their store. And outside of the fact that we've been around for 10 years, that might tell people a little something. I think everybody and their dog in the tri-state area knows who we are.
CP: Well, if I'm remembering the piece...when we had talked to Walmart, they said the street told them they were going to talk about suicide prevention. They didn't say--
BDS: Well that's a part of the assembly. That's a part of "My War." That's a part of who we are and what we do. No question. I mean, we've got letters. Hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands of letters from people who are alive today because of the ministry standing in front of the store. Not just suicide prevention, keep in mind there's a whole plethora of things we talk about.
CP: So you don't think that when the street team goes to Walmart or goes to Hyvee or whatever, you don't think that they mislead?
BDS: If they misled people, I'd have a serious problem with them. A serious problem.
CP: Is it a pretty big street team? Is it a lot of people?
BDS: No. Well, let's put it this way, we have, in the ministry here, in the five-state area. That's pretty much, I mean, I'd love to have teams all across the country, but we're not there. We're local.
CP: And is it comprised entirely of ordained ministers?
BDS: They are. Every one of those guys, you can bring them in here, and you could ask them any question throughout the top and bottom. And I want to say this, go to a theological school, and tell me how many theologians can do that. These guys can do it. And by the way, it's not every one of them. We call them the veterans, they've been here for 10 years.
CP: Has "You Can Run" grown considerably larger in the past couple years?
BDS: As far as the base, we've done the "My War" documentary. We've had like 1,200 people go through it. A lot of people know who we are. They really know who we are. They know what our purpose is, they're on our mailing list.
CP: It looked like from 2008 to 2009, revenue-wise, you guys made--
BDS: You can ask Jake [MacAulay, You Can't Run's business manager] about all that. I don't do none of that. What was it?
CP: The revenue tripled from 2008 to 2009.
BDS: The bottom line is, as far as the revenue, I know that the last 5 years, we've just been getting kicked in the teeth. Three years hard, I know that.
CP:The last thing I want to ask you about is this whole debacle with the prayer. I read a week or two ago that you had said you actually had talked to Zellers before.
BDS: Nicole [another ministry member] had ran into Zellers, and he had said to her, "I know you guys." And he gave his card and said, "Get a hold of so and so, I'd like to be on your radio show."
I think what happened is he just felt a little heat and he bowed. That's what he did.
CP: He made it seem like he had no idea who you were.
BDS: He's a liar, he straight up lied.
CP: Was it [Ernie] Leidiger that invited you?
BDS: He came to one of our events, and sat there and watched the whole debunking.
He knows what was done, he sat and watched the whole program. I think what happened was that it was brand new. Listen, when the media first comes down on you, it's not a secure feeling.
We went through it, but the bottom line is I just don't think he was really for it. But what was interesting is, when we did the event, he was there and he was the first one to stand up, "We need to get behind these guys. We need to stand up."
CP: So Leidiger was at an event?
BDS: He's seen the whole thing.
One of the documentary premieres. Which, by the way, is being attacked from, again, the homosexual communities without even seeing the documentary.