Jake Dagel, former Bradlee Dean employee, discusses working for his "cultic sham ministry"
Dagel on Dean's ministry: "The control, manipulation... that's not Christian-like at all."
As 20-year-old Jake Dagel flew from Nashville to Omaha late last month, he finally had time to reflect on the things he'd experienced while working for Bradlee Dean's "You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International" ministry for the previous seven weeks.
His conclusions? He was part of a "cultic sham ministry" led by two men who enriched themselves while leaving their employees without enough money to pay bills.
Dagel was on that flight because around 3 a.m. that morning, he had gotten off a You Can Run van in rural Tennessee. He, a handful of other You Can Run street evangelism team members, and their boss, Chase Schomburg, were on the way back to the Midwest from Florida, where they had been soliciting funds for Dean's ministry outside gas stations and Walmarts.
During an early morning stop in Pulawski, Tennessee, Dagel says Schomburg told him it was his turn to pay for a tank of gas. But Dagel says the only money he had to his name after seven weeks of trying to drum up funds for Dean was already earmarked for his car payment. (Because of a confidentiality agreement, Dagel couldn't discuss specifics about his compensation.) When he told Schomburg he couldn't pay up, Dagel says he was told to either figure something out or grab his belongings and get out of the vehicle. Dagel says he chose the latter and walked two miles to a hotel, where he used his car payment money to get a room.
"I didn't want to be sleeping under a bridge," Dagel said.
Hours later, Dagel called Dean's right-hand man, Jake MacAulay, to tell him about the incident with Schomburg.
MacAulay "sounded flabbergasted," Dagel said. "He got Chase on the phone and we had a three-way conversation. [But] during the course of it things turned. They said it was my choice to leave because Chase would never leave somebody behind."
Dagel said MacAulay and Schomburg ended up suggesting he should've skipped meals in order to save money for the tank of gas.
Later in the day, Dagel says MacAulay called back and told him Schomburg would turn around to pick him up. But by that time Dagel wanted no part of getting back in the van and instead contacted his family, who arranged for him to fly from Tennessee back up to the Midwest.
At the time of the Pulawski incident, Dagel was only planning to work for You Can Run for one more week, as he'd already put in his notice.
"I essentially put in my notice because I wasn't making enough to pay bills back at home and I was getting sick of the way I believed I was getting mistreated," he said. "The Tennessee situation was the final cap more than anything."
Dagel's seven-week stint with You Can Run began when he and Dean appeared on the same radio show in Iowa last spring. At the time, Dagel, a 20-year-old student at the Ankeny campus of the Des Moines Community College system, had gained a bit of national prominence for successfully suing his school in a federal free-speech lawsuit. Dagel was upset that public dollars were being spent on an LGBTQ conference that was to be held on campus, and sued after the school restricted his ability to freely distribute fliers objecting to the $1,000 public subsidy for the conference.
After the radio show, Dagel says MacAulay got in touch with him, told him Dean "loves what you're doing," and asked if he'd help arrange for Dean to come speak at his campus. Dagel did, and after Dean's speech, Dagel says MacAulay told him, "Why don't you come up to Minnesota with us tomorrow, check it out, and we'll talk about possible employment."
Dagel took MacAulay up on his offer and ultimately agreed to go to work for You Can Run. But it quickly became apparent the work wasn't going to be what he expected going in.
"The original plan was for me to develop a program to teach other college students and high school students how to defend religious freedoms and First Amendment rights on their campuses," Dagel said. "That's something a lot of conservatives feel are under attack." But since summer was quickly approaching, Dagel says the You Can Run brain trust instead asked him to work for the street evangelism team until school was back in session. And so Dagel hit the road.
Dagel says "things started off pretty soft," but there was an ominous incident in Minot, North Dakota, during his first You Can Run road trip. After one of his typical 12-plus hour days fundraising, Dagel was back in his hotel room watching Pawn Stars when Schomburg entered.
"He told me, 'We don't watch this stuff -- if you want to watch TV, get your own room,'" Dagel said. In another instance, Dagel was reading the Fox News website on his phone when Schomburg told him to put it away because "you don't need to know about that stuff."
"I asked him, 'Isn't it important to know what your enemies are doing?' and [Schomburg] told me that wasn't a Christian teaching," Dagel said. "He told me sharing the truth of Christ is all that matters and that's what's going to save the country. I'm a Christian and I follow Christ but I don't believe in being ignorant."
As he flew to meet his family in Omaha following the Tennessee incident, Dagel thought about a number of expenses he incurred as a result of the ordeal, including the hotel room and flight. He says he later determined he was shafted of two days pay in his final check from You Can Run.
So he decided to send an email to Dean, MacAulay, and Schomburg demanding $829.
"If this money is refused or not paid to me in full by the requested date I will take the discovered information [about Dean and MacAulay's annual compensation, which in 2011 amounted to a total of $122,121 and $81,282 respectively, according to Dagel], plus the information of how I was treated, stories from other individuals I have spoken to that have been associated with your ministry, and the information that you are a cultic sham ministry to the media," Dagel threatened.
In an email, MacAulay responded. Click to page three to read it.
Many of your accusations you have made on your email 7/5/13 are false claims. I might remind you that published lies cause damage and become Libel. This as you know is punishable by law.
We write to remind you of your continuing obligations under the "Employee Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement" you signed on May 11th, 2013 as well as the Arbitration policy of the Ministry You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International.
You have already told us by your actions that you intend to ignore this contractual obligation. Numerous supporters have been in touch with us already showing us your libelous emails and sharing with us your slanderous conversations. Recently multiple ministry supporters have contacted the ministry and stated that you have falsely represented that the Ministry somehow has acted in an unethical and un-Christian manner toward employees and the general public. Obviously, such statements tend to injure the Ministry's reputation, ministry opportunities and interests, and violate the law. See, e.g. Melaleuca v. Clark, 66 Cal.App.4th 1344 (1998)...
Our 990s are available to the public and at no time has the ministry attempted to restrict access to 990s by any member of the public. When one reads the 990 thoroughly they will discover the payroll amounts have been recommended by an independent compensation committee, and are approved by only those members of the board that have no business or family relationship with individuals receiving compensation; under a strict conflicts of interest policy.
Regarding the money you are demanding through extortive language. I had spoken to you before your plane ticket was purchased and offered you a ride immediately, work for the rest of the week, and transportation back to Minnesota. You refused all these offers. Furthermore I have accommodated every request of yours up to this point, many times my help being rejected. You also utilized help from two ministry donors (which you met by being involved with this Ministry) to drive you cross-state on two separate occasions.
At this time the officers of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, Inc. require written assurances by no later than the close of business on July 9, 2013, that (1) you are not making false statements about the ministry's mission, practices, teaching and integrity, and (2) you will IMMEDIATELY cease and desist violating the terms of the Confidentiality Agreement or the Arbitration Agreement in any manner
In the absence of such assurances, we intend to consider use of all means available to rectify these violations.
Again: The mandate to enter into binding arbitration is nonnegotiable and any payments will be the result of binding arbitration. However, no action, including binding arbitration, can proceed unless the assurances listed above are confirmed.
Jake MacAulay, COO
You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International
Dagel ended up withdrawing his demand for $829 in compensation, but decided to go public with his story despite MacAulay's threats. Ultimately, he says he's appalled by the un-Christian treatment he received from Dean's "Christian" ministry and wants to make sure other young Christian conservatives don't fall into the same trap.
"When joining the ministry I believed it to be a family oriented ministry, Christian, and authentic. I was beyond mistaken," Dagel wrote in an email explaining his plight to friends. "Please work with me as we make it clear that Bradlee Dean and his cultic sham ministry, that I got sucked into, is not welcome to Iowa any longer!"
Since going public with his allegations last week, Dagel hasn't heard from Dean or MacAulay, though he says he's received texts from Schomburg, who's still asking him to pay for the tank of gas he couldn't afford in Tennessee.
During his tenure with You Can Run, Dagel said, most of his interaction was with Schomburg and MacAulay, as Dean was too busy with his radio show and speaking engagements to have much to do with the street team.
Now unemployed, Dagel says he won't be going back to school in the fall but hopes to find work with a political campaign in Iowa soon.
Despite it all, Dagel still praised Dean for being a remarkable speaker and said he thinks Dean has a lot of important things to say about how Christian perspectives are being marginalized in today's America. In fact, he said his ordeal with You Can Run hasn't altered his Christian conservative viewpoints whatsoever.
"It's impossible to change my political views," Dagel said with a chuckle.
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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