Andy Kopsa

Off The Record: On Religion, Politics & Equality

Bradlee Dean back in Schools with Junkyard Prophets and message of anti-gay hate

 

UPDATE:  Forgot to mention one of the most egregious statements made by Dean to the Dunkerton school.  According to Superintendent Stanton, Dean’s group told the crowd that gay men “on average” die when they are “42 years old.”  Yep, that’s what they said.

Bradlee Dean and his Junkyard Prophets are back selling their anti-gay right wing Christian revisionist snake oil in Iowa schools.  Using a typical bait and switch, Dean – an anti-gay evangelist from Minnesota – and his 501c3 “ministry” promise schools a rock concert full of positive messaging and an effective anti-drug and alcohol program brought to your school.  But of course something different happens when he gets through the door.

This from KWWL in Iowa:

An Eastern Iowa superintendent is doing major damage control after an unexpected message in a school assembly.  The band Junkyard Prophet and a group known as You Can Run But You Cannot Hide was invited to speak at Dunkerton High School Thursday morning.  Administrators thought the group was speaking about provocative lyrics in music and making good choices. But then, the subject matter turned to potentially offensive opinions on homosexuality and abortion.

“We work hard to teach tolerance in our classrooms,” Superintendent Jim Stanton told students at a second assembly Thursday afternoon.

The afternoon gathering was not originally part of the superintendent’s plans Thursday, but proved necessary after the first one went awry. “I thought it was going to be a fun three hour assembly and I’d get out of some classes,” remarked seventh grade student Adam Manahl.

Students say the assembly started well. The band played some great music and most students agreed with their message. “They were a rock band, and they talked about music that had bad influences on kids,” said high school junior Kenzley Ricklefs. But then things took an unexpected turn. The group switched their message from music, to negative opinions about the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community. “They started talking about homosexuality, and that’s when I really got offended,” Manahl said. “I got a little emotional. I wanted to walk out. But I’m like — keep your calm, listen to what they have to say.” Then they split into smaller groups — girls, boys, and teachers. The guys got a lesson in the constitution and Christianity.

Okay – there are a ton of things wrong here.  Anti-gay hate messages, teaching Christianity in schools.  But I always like to point out that Dean got around $1500 dollars – taxpayer dollars – from the Dunkerton school.  “That is the number [$1500] that sticks in my head,” Superintendent Stanton told me in a phone call this morning.

I have done investigations into the federal funding of anti-gay Christian organizations through President Bush’s faith based initiatives.  I get how these things work.  Typically, millions in government funds go directly to an organization to be used to either train staff or build capacity to execute specific programs.  These organizations – including Dean’s YCR ministries are 501(c)3 (non-profit) organizations therefore they are tax exempt.  And although YCR gets no direct federal funding, they get your tax money nonetheless.

According to YCR ministries 2009 tax return the group took in over $18,000 via school assemblies.  From a 2008 tax return, they claimed to perform at 5 schools but do not indicate associated income.  Dean’s own cost estimate of each assembly is between three and five thousand dollars (although they offer a sliding scale – Scavo only paid $315 for its assembly).  Using the lower price as a guide that would make YCR’s 2008 school assembly revenue $15,000.  Further investigation into these returns are necessary to determine how much income came from school district public funds versus private funds.

There are laws governing the use of public money and what non-profits can and cannot do.  There are regulations against proselytizing in public schools as well as against using public funds to do it.  Whether or not YCR has violated those rules will be up to the lawyers – if any choose to investigate.

I couldn’t access all of YCR’s tax returns and some of them were missing pertinent information so I decided to take Dean at his word when calculating the group’s possible school assembly income. Dean says in his My War trailer that he has performed at over 331 schools.  I applied the extra cheap Scavo price of only $315* as the charge to each of those 331 schools. That rock-bottom per assembly price still comes out to over $104,000 of potential public funds paid to Dean and conceivably used to power his hate-filled ministry.

Stanton wants that money back.  “They misrepresented themselves,” Stanton told me.  He also said he would be warning the other Superintendents in the school’s “Two Rivers” conference.  “We have over 66 schools in our conference and I am going to let all of them know that Dean is coming around.”

But Dean is well-known to the gay rights community.  He is notorious for his traveling roadshow.  He does quick hits, as with Dunkerton, contacting schools as they are “just passing through” the area.  Promising an amazing show that would typically cost a school about $5000 for the low, low price of $1500 – or less.

A quick google search of Dean and the Junkyard Prophets would have yielded the Dunkerton administration a host of information that hopefully would have kept the group out of their school.  But, as I spoke with Stanton I heard echos of other interviews I conducted in the past with other overwrought school administrators.

Schools are desperate to bring assemblies and other outside programs into their schools.  So, when the Junkyard Prophets flyer came across someone’s desk, it seemed like an easy fit.

“We assured parents that what the Junkyard Prophets said is not in alignment with Dunkerton schools – we promote diversity and tolerance,” he went on to point out a tragic consequence of Dean coming to Dunkerton, “With their message of intolerance against gays – they just made our job as a school that much harder.”

This is my previous post about another Iowa school that had to do immediate damage control after Dean and his group came through from last year:

Kittie Weston-Knauer served as administrator for Scavo Alternative High School in Des Moines, Iowa until 2007.  Just before the 2005 school year, Bradlee Dean’s You Can Run But You Cannot Hide (YCR) school program contacted her to offer its services:  bring in a hard-rocking band, connect with the kids about self-esteem, how to make wise choices in life and get them pumped up for the new year.

Dean, a former drug addict, is a minister of dubious ordination playing out a hard rock God fantasy with his band Junkyard Prophets from their home base near Minneapolis.  He runs a church, a right-wing talk radio show The Sons of Liberty and recently debuted a self-congratulatory documentary called My War – The Testimony of Bradlee Dean. 

If you are unfamiliar with Dean the best primer on him and his ministry is the My War trailer on the YCR website.  Dean voice-overs his story – he’s misunderstood, he’s been kicked out of schools for teaching students everywhere “the truth”.   Dean questioning over and over again “why me?” why would he have to be the one to save an entire generation of kids?

A story akin to that of the martyrs, but in My War we are treated to a video montage of Jesus, the founding fathers, clips of Dean appearing on Fox News and rippling American flags under a screeching guitar solo of The National Anthem.

“It was more than disgusting, it was truly horrifying”

Dean’s escapades have been well documented over the years – taking public funds for performances that outraged parents atMinnesota and Arkansas schools.  His anti-gay, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim ministry chronicled up through Dean’s controversial prayergiven on the floor of the Minnesota legislature last month.

Kittie didn’t know Dean and YCR were Christian evangelists – the group’s slick collateral material didn’t mention it.  There was no My War trailer she could watch to ward her off and most of the reports of Dean’s questionable tactics hadn’t yet been written.  She said it was essentially a snow job – that Dean’s group “sold themselves as something they weren’t.”  Scavo, along with the Minnesota and Arkansas schools referenced above count three schools making this claim.

YCR started off its Scavo event with a rock music performance as it has done in every other school.  Things were going okay through that – the kids having a good time listening to the music – though it was too loud for Kittie personally. It was the breakout sessions afterward that disturbed her. But mostly it disturbed the kids.

The kids of Scavo Alternative High School aren’t trust fund babies or prep schoolers.  They are pregnant teens, troubled and homeless kids, and potential dropouts – all generally at risk – and all deserving of a fighting chance.  Kittie spoke of the teens taking parenting classes, sexually abused youth, children from violent and broken homes that made up her student body.  She told me about Scavo’s success stories of which she was rightfully proud.

During the breakout sessions, smaller groups of kids were sorted out for a more personal interaction with a member of Dean’s YCR team. From those groups a child was singled out and brought in front of the class.  Then, YCR facilitators proceed to put “dots” physically on the child to represent a “curse” or a “pox”. As the dots were being placed on the student the YCR instructor announced each pox:  teen pregnancy, pre-marital sex, not being a true Christian, homosexuality, STDs….

Kittie said the students – and faculty – were quite upset.  She said of Dean’s program,  “It was more than disgusting, it was horrifying.”  After our conversation, she sent me an email about the true impact Dean’s ministry had on her kids.

“There were many students who spoke to me about being made to feel “less than”. This included gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender youth; students who had served time in juvenile facilities as well as prison; homeless youth (as if it was their fault); run-a-ways (she [facilitator] certainly did not know their circumstances); and sexually active students.”

The day after the assembly, Weston-Knauer pulled her staff and students together to apologize.  ”I took full responsibility for not having done my homework” on Dean and YCR.  With a small, overworked staff at an alternative high school, Weston-Knauer can be forgiven for taking Dean and his staff at their word.

Government’s Christian Welfare Programs

But maybe it’s just half of that – or even just one quarter?  Unfortunately the likelihood is that it is much, much more.  But even if it Bradlee Dean’s ministry got only $10 of government money – our money - that is ten bucks too much.

Notes, links, etc:

  • Awesome MN blogs all over Bachmann:  Ripple in Stillwater and Dump Bachmann
  • Bradlee Dean has direct connections to Michele Bachman – she has spoken highly of him and they have performed at her fundraisers.  His association with the Minnesota FOF affiliate positions him to bend the ear of presidential candidates as they travel through Minnesota.  Tim Pawlenty has appeared on his radio show.  Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent documents it all.
  • Dean’s ministry is already facing scrutiny for possible misuse of ministerial housing funds.
  • YCR Sliding Scale:  Kittie spoke with a representative of the group and said that she would like them to come, but couldn’t afford it. As a result Dean’s ministry only charged Kittie $315. That $315 came out of a building fund used to provide activities for the kids – money made available through the school district.
  • * My previous investigations into FOF affiliate federal funding, faith based funding and tax-exempt status for politicking churches can be read here, herehere and here.  And a special one where the Indiana FOF affiliate receives federal money AND is partnered with the state.
  • If you would like to review YCR’s IRS forms they can be accessed on Guidestar and The Foundation Center
  • Not for nothing – Kittie kicks ass as the oldest BMX’er in the US!  Check this out at The Grio. AWESOME!

18 comments on “Bradlee Dean back in Schools with Junkyard Prophets and message of anti-gay hate

  1. e1993
    March 9, 2012

    Seriously…you ignorant people. Were you even at the assembly? Your article is based on what other people saw…and you weren’t there t actally see the assembly. That is hipocracy at its best. Also the law is the law whether you like it or not. The killing of innocent babies is murder…they are human beings. Babies have a heartbeat within the first few weeks and their nervous system starts developing from the point of conce
    ption! They can feel pain…they can feel the pain as they are being ripped apart. People just choose to ignore the facts of what it really is. They pro choice people can’t even look at a photo of an aborted baby…wow they can’t even look at what they support! I just talked to a woman yesterda who
    formally had an abortion…and

    • candide001
      March 10, 2012

      Throw away your Bible. It’s obviously confused you. Fairytales are for kids. Embryos and fetuses aren’t people. There’s no murder going on. You just want to control women’s bodies. You don’t like abortion? Don’t get an abortion. You don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get gay married. It’s that simple. You want to live in a theocracy? Move to Iran.

  2. Church
    March 9, 2012

    I’m not surprised that e1993 cannot see the unconstitutionality of what these phonies are perpetrating. The issue of Separation of Church and State just seems to baffle the Religious Right, just as does most of the Constitution.
    The Bible thumpers are convinced that we should all live our lives according to a fairy tale with winged invisible friends as our guides.

  3. upset
    March 10, 2012

    I was there, and it was abhorrent! This is a public school we are talking about and it is not a place to use as a platform for the Religious Right. The question was posed to me by “Mass Dog” (The front-man of the band… I know cool name), “If they don’t hear it here [the school], where are they going to hear it?” Answer: at church or at home if that is what their parents decide to expose their children to! NOT in a public school. Students and teachers alike were belittled, talked down to, and insulted if they dared challenged the hateful propaganda that was being forced on them. Not to mention this was an assembly that students as young as 7th grade were required to attend. Twelve year old kids!

    And your right e1993, the law is the law, and for people who spend so much time telling students to know their constitution and their rights they seem to have a poor grasp of the actual facts of the documents and how they should be implemented. I seem to remember that bit about separation between church and state and that little thing called freedom of religion. Also, as I recall Roe v. Wade still stands so no matter how much you dislike it, abortions are legal. (Fun new fact I learned: Did you know that our US Constitution has the laws “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not kill” in it! Neat, huh?) They were extremely hypocritical, claiming that other people’s use of music to influence others is awful, but clearly that doesn’t apply to them.

    They started their slide show presentation with a speech about how music brainwashes kids, which I found truly ironic seeing that was exactly what they were trying to do. (Note that Dean had just commented how “interesting” it was that all the young kids come up and dance to the music and fist pump and wave their arms along with the band, while all the older students thought they were “too cool”… maybe because the younger kids are easily drawn in by the “fun” of a rock concert in their school auditorium at 9AM, and the high school students know to be a little more skeptical before buying into an unknown product? Food for thought.)

    The presentation went on to tell students that Lady Gaga was an awful influence because she had the gall to compare being black to being gay; that as mentioned above that gay men die on average at age 42 (followed by “so knowing this, if you really loved a person who was making this poor choice [being gay], wouldn’t you tell then to stop.” Really lovely.)’ that your beloved composer of Disney movie music is actually an awful human being because he believes that you should be able to love whoever you want; oh… and “did you know the lead singer of Queen is dead?…” I guess the conclusion of why that was was left up to us!

    And then the abortion topic, where only two options were given: carry, give birth to, and raise your baby (no matter what type of financial, familial, or personal factors you might be facing, I’m sure) or… cue picture of late-term aborted fetuses! (The speaker repeating over and over again, “I am just trying to show you both sides of the story” … While no “other side” of the story ever seemed to be presented. And failing to mention the fact that late-term abortions are not the norm and typically happen in emergency situations to save the mother or because something is terribly wrong with the fetus) They misrepresented and used this inflammatory imagery clearly as an emotional ploy to get student to say that abortion in always and completely wrong, because of course any human being would find these images disturbing. Unbelievable. Did I mention that we are talking about twelve year old kids here? I would like to mention that students at this school are shown almost the exact same images in 8th grade health, however there is prior communication with parents so that they can discuss with their child about what they are going to see first and so that the teacher can answer any questions the parents might have about what they are going to be taught in conjunction with this imagery.

    This was a completely inappropriate presentation for a public school. Girls being told that if they didn’t save not only their virginity, but ideally thier first kiss, for their husbands that they would never find a good husband because they would be “leftovers.” And that everything they are and accomplish will become his when they get married. (Hope you are good at making sandwiches, woman!) The blatant evangelizing was sickening to see in a place that is meant to make everyone feel safe, respected, and included. This should not be tolerated.

    Also, that you should save your first kiss until your wedding day so that it can be before the eyes of god. True story. (You wouldn’t want to be “leftovers” for your future husbands now would you ladies?) Also, your parents clearly don’t love you enough if they got a divorce… or maybe it was they were just awful people…. probably both.

    • Heartbroken
      March 10, 2012

      My 13 year old was in this assembly and I was outraged when I was contacted after the assembly and told some of the things that were said and done to these children. After reading your account I am physically sick. I have not slept since this event occured. As a parent I belive the core values that I need to teach my children are tolerance, acceptence and compassion. Those are the values I learned going to church my whole life. The parents, teachers, and community members need to come together and take a stand to proctect these children who have been traumatized. Hate is not acceptable!

    • akopsa
      March 10, 2012

      Please feel free to contact me off site – I would like to post this comment and others

  4. MetalGoddess
    March 10, 2012

    Apparently e1993 didn’t receive a good education as evidenced by his tirade. Frankly I am opposed to any organization that goes to public schools to brainwash children into religious fanaticism and politics. I am also opposed to a bunch of grown men discussing sex and pornography in a public school. That is disgusting. Religious values and political beliefs should be left up to parents to discuss with their children. Sexual affairs should be left up to parents to discuss with their children. This man is a lunatic and should not be able to approach anyone’s children.

  5. z
    March 10, 2012

    As of now the website for YCR contains the following testimonial which has been there for at least the past year.

    Be the best you can be!

    This was an awesome assembly – from the band that rocked to the motivational presentations that followed. Though it may not have been evident, our students heard the message. The message of hope and inspiration – knowing who you are and believing in yourself; making appropriate choices; respecting yourself and others – was delivered in a powerful fashion. Thank you for bringing this message to our students.

    Kittie D. Weston-Knauer, Principal, Des Moines, IA

    This is a serious discrepancy of some sort.

  6. Church
    March 10, 2012

    Thank you, “upset” for your testimony.
    I am much encouraged by the comments against this type of “Christian” propaganda.
    It is good to see that some people understand the Constitution.
    This rhetoric is just the beginning if Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum were to get their way.
    Michele Bachmann and her husband are getting rich from federal funds to coerce gay people to go straight.
    Let’s keep these intrusive fools out of our bedrooms and our bodies and away from our kids.

  7. MetalGoddess
    March 10, 2012

    These people have been doing this sort of thing for many years. What I find odd is that none of these schools ever checks these people out on the Internet. Everyone has a website or a blog these days. Everyone has a Facebook page these days. Doesn’t the name You Can Run But You Can’t Hide give someone the willies? They’ve made it difficult for strangers to access schools which is good but yet all these people have to do is send a pamphlet and these schools just allow them access. In 2012 there is no excuse. Saying “we didn’t expect this” is no excuse because if you google these people, stories of this nature are all over the place dating back I think to the mid 2000’s. Their website is easy to find. They also have a radio show that you can listen in to and hear their rhetoric. Maybe it is about time that we start petitioning our state representatives about this group of people. If these schools have no sense whatsoever, then I think concerned parents and individuals should make their state representatives aware of this organization and that they are taking tax dollars to promote religion and politics to children. That none of these schools have informed the government of the states they are in of this organization really makes me wonder. It’s time to write your state representatives folks especially if you find they are coming to your state.

    • heartbroken
      March 10, 2012

      I have received information thatthis group is trying to come back to Dunkerton to hold a town meeting. I would like to know how we can prevent this or what organizations can help us take a stand to prevent them from spreading this intolerance to our students. I am upset beyond words.

      • akopsa
        March 10, 2012

        Please contact me @andykopsa on twitter or andykopsa@hotmail.com

      • Jim Blix
        March 14, 2012

        A town meeting would be good. You could show them the tar and feathers.

  8. Church
    March 11, 2012

    Here is a link to an article alleging invasion of privacy by school officials in Minnesota, Michele Bachmann’s state.
    These failings of the educational system are one of the reasons I home schooled my kids.
    Did you all see the story yesterday about a child killed in a school bus collision with a dump truck?
    How about the kid who walked into school the other day and killed three of his fellow students.
    What was it Einstein said about insanity? Something about trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

  9. Church
    March 11, 2012
  10. chrisgeraldvogel
    March 14, 2012

    So typical of religious conservatives: either you do what they say–no matter how ridiculous or malicious–or they try to destroy you. Still better than the old days; modern secular governments do not permit their traditional responses to difference: torture and mass murder. This is a great comfort for those of us they are trying to destroy. Shame about the children they damage, though.

  11. Pingback: Conservative Babylon » Divine Justice: Bradlee Dean Ordered to Pay Court Costs to Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, MN Indy & Andy Birkey

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