You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit ministry that brings its hard rock gospel into public schools, has been deepening its long-running ties to the Republican Party of Minnesota. Long a cause célèbre for Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has twice lent her name to the group’s fundraising efforts, You Can Run (YCR) had a booth at the GOP convention in April, and the group’s frontman, Bradlee Dean, reports that gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer recently accepted an invitation to visit with him at Dean’s home. But recent controversial statements by Dean — that Muslim countries calling for the execution of gays and lesbians are “more moral than even the American Christians” — have drawn the ire of some both within and outside the party.
“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America,” Dean said on YCR’s May 15 radio show on AM 1280 the Patriot. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”
“If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that,” Dean continued. “That is what you are seeing in America.”
“The bottom line is this… they [homosexuals] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator,” Dean said, before going on to make a claim that has no basis in fact: “On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?”
Mark Knief, president of the Minnesota chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Dean’s words were some of the “most outrageous lies I’ve ever heard.”
He added, “This should be a grave concern with any candidate that is supporting them.”
The ministry has become increasingly cozy with Minnesota Republicans. During the past few months, You Can Run has attended two Republican Party of Minnesota events and garnered the support of top Republican officials: The group participated in Bachmann’s campaign kickoff and fundraiser with Sarah Palin on April 7, where it set up a booth. YCR also had a booth at the Republican Party of Minnesota State Convention in late April — using space donated by the party, Dean says — where it greeted the party’s endorsed candidate for governor, Rep. Tom Emmer. Emmer attended the You Can Run fundraiser in late 2009. Dean says Minnesota GOP chair Tony Sutton invited the ministry to attend.
YCR posted a picture of two of its members with Emmer at the GOP convention on the group’s Facebook page following the event.
The day after the GOP convention, Dean and radio co-host Jake McMillian spoke on-air about attending the event and their relationship with Emmer (mp3), stating that party chair Tony Sutton wanted them at the convention to attract a younger demographic to the party.
“We were at the GOP, the GOP saw what we do and they identified with it,” McMillian said. “Even when I was sitting down with Tony Sutton and just going over what we do as a ministry, I said to him, ‘Do you know any other groups that are reaching the demographic we are reaching with the message that we are?’ And, of course, it was blink-blink, ‘No, I don’t, so I want you guys a part of this convention with us.’”
He added, “And then they invited and they gave us a free table. Amen.”
After mentioning that Emmer stopped by the booth, Dean told radio audiences, “Congratulations, Tom Emmer. By the way, he’s been out to my house and I told him, ‘You’ll to do fine as long as you do what you say you are going to do.’ And we are going to hold his feet to the fire on this.”
GOP chair Sutton did not respond to the Minnesota Independent’s request for comment on Dean’s rhetoric about executing gays and lesbians, but Emmer’s press secretary, Chris Van Guilder, passed along this statement from Emmer:
“You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International is a ministry based in Annandale, a few miles north of Tom’s home town Delano. As a representative of the Wright County area, Tom has met with many, perhaps most of the residents of the area, and has doorknocked across the county.
Tom did meet Bradlee Dean while campaigning, and may have doorknocked his house.
Tom has also appeared on AM1280 and KKMS, including on Bradlee Dean’s radio show. Tom has appeared on many other radio stations and shows as well.
Tom is not a donor to the You Can Run But You Cannot Hide ministry, and has never appeared as a spokesman at one of their fundraising events. He did attend a meet-and-greet before a fundraising event held by the ministry to mingle with the hundreds of attendees.
Tom’s position on social issues has been very clear and consistent. He is a supporter of traditional marriage, and he strongly opposes any kind of violence or unfair discrimination against any group.
Knief noted a disconnect between that rhetoric and the way Dean and his staff present themselves at GOP events: “They come across as really nice guys, completely different than this language is.”
That language also has LGBT groups concerned. Phil Duran, legal director for OutFront Minnesota, condemned Dean’s statement about executing gays.
“It’s pretty shocking to read people criticizing Christians and Americans because they don’t, as a rule, go out and actually kill gay people,” he said. “There are those who rely on attitudes like this — and attitudes not nearly so extreme — to justify acts of violence, harassment or discrimination, to justify continued exclusion of same-sex couples from the law, to rationalize the imposition of so-called ‘reparative therapy’ to ‘fix’ people, and to oppose safe-schools legislation.”
He added, “The question that concerns me is: how many people out there look at comments like this and agree? Hopefully, very few.”
Despite the concern generated by Dean’s words, nonprofit and church-state experts say the coordination between a nonprofit ministry and a political party don’t raise many concerns.
Nonprofits and ministries are prohibited from getting involved in partisan politics, but experts say that while YCR has come close to crossing the line, they likely haven’t gone far enough to trigger an IRS complaint.
Abby Levine of the Alliance for Justice wouldn’t comment on the specifics of YCR’s involvement in Republican politics, but did offer general guidelines for nonprofit organizations.
“A 501(c)3 can’t support or oppose a candidate. They can’t indicate support for candidates,” said Levine. “If it looks like an organization is supporting a candidate, that would be problematic.”
She added, “There could be legitimate reasons for a nonprofit organization to attend events like you’ve described.”
Donald Tobin, a professor of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said, “In light of how blatant some nonprofits have been, this seems like it’s the lesser of the blatant.”
He said the IRS looks at all the facts and circumstances to see if a nonprofit has intervened for or against a candidate for office.
When asked via email whether he or YCR supports Emmer’s candidacy, Dean declined to answer, instead stating, “I would preach the Gospel and set up a booth at any event where we were invited. We are not going to discriminate because you do not like a particular people. I would set a booth with you and preach the Gospel if you would invite me? And if you would tell the truth I would even take a picture with you and post it.”
Dean concluded his email to the Minnesota Independent with a quote from Revelations 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Update: Emmer’s campaign acknowledges that Emmer’s Minnesota House campaign donated $250 to You Can Run in 2008; the campaign has alerted the Campaign Finance Board because the donation exceeds the legal limit by $150.