When Julia Miller pulled into the BP station on Lexington and St. Anthony in St. Paul last month, she was immediately approached by a young man from an organization called You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International.
While Miller pumped her gas, the young man walked up and cleaned her windshield, while launching into his pitch.[jump]
"He was a pretty good salesman," Miller recalls. "He asked if I wanted to donate to suicide prevention. I usually don't make donations on the street, because I don't know where it's going, but I had recently lost a friend to suicide, so my guard was down."
Miller walked over to a table where the man's partner was sitting with a jar for donations. They wanted $20. Miller gave him $5, and in return was given a pair of fliers.
She didn't really think about it again until last week, when Bradlee Dean, the head of the You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International ministry, made headlines with a universally condemned prayer before the state legislature.
Soon the major news outlets were discovering what many bloggers have known for years: Dean and his ministry are spectacularly homophobic. Dean has called for gays to be arrested and jailed, and has said Muslim extremists are "more moral" than American Christians because they call for the execution of homosexuals.
Miller isn't the only one who was told a story of charitable work by one of the ministry's street teams.
A City Pages commenter reports a similar encounter at a Holiday gas station two years ago:
"They pitched me about their efforts, which I was told were solely to educate teens and veterans on suicide prevention. I was touched by their mission and gave them $20."
Tony Marous, the manager of the BP station on Lexington, says he got a slightly different version when he was first approached by a woman from Dean's ministry late last year.
"They told me they were collecting money to help people on drugs," he says.
That sounded like a good cause to Marous, so he allowed the Ministry to set up a fund-raising table at his station. They've been there two or three times a month ever since, he says.
Yet the group's most current 990 tax filings confess to an altogether different mission:
"To reshape America by redirecting our youth morally and spiritually through education. (Hosea 4:6) The ministry's street teams spoke to over 250,000 people last year concerning their spiritual destiny and our nation's religious history."
The function of the street teams, the filing reports, is to share the gospel and distribute CDs and literature.
The street teams represent the overwhelming majority of the Ministry's expenses ($280,039) and revenue ($444,126). But back in 2009, You Can Run also used to present school assemblies:
"The presentation covers current issues which may include drugs, alcoholism, suicide, sex, media, our country, our Veterans, the Constitution."
Those topics don't seem to actually have been the focus of the school assemblies, though. In fact, the ministry has developed a well-documented reputation for showing up at schools promising to talk about drugs, then laying a heavy dose of anti-abortion propaganda on unsuspecting students.
When City Pages spoke with Dean by telephone yesterday, he said there's nothing deceptive about presenting his ministry to potential donors as a suicide prevention or drug-abuse prevention organization.
"We do address the topic," Dean said. "We do tell the kids that, you know what? Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. So it is a part of our ministry."
His claims aren't persuasive to Julia Miller, who regrets giving $5 to You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International -- not least because her friend who committed suicide was gay.
"When I realized that was the group I had given money to, I felt sick to my stomach," Miller says. "Other people need to be made aware of this, so they don't make the same mistake I did."
Here are the 2009 tax filings for Dean's ministry:
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