By Emerson Drake
When you decide to start a church you have many choices. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to involve anyone or any entity, you can go about your own business preaching and praying anyway you choose. When starting a church many people choose to enter into a covenant with the government to gain a special status. The status of being a non-profit, which in this case a 501(c)3, means you can raise money and not pay taxes on it and you can give your donors a tax break on their donations which allows them to deduct the donations from their taxable income. It also means you can start profitable businesses and not pay taxes (like we said a special status.) But if you choose to enter into this covenant with the government there are rules you must abide by. These rules allow churches to promote issues BUT these same rules forbid these nonprofits from championing candidates for political office.
It’s really very simple to follow the rules, and the overwhelming majority of churches across the country do it all the time, but The House has repeatedly and deliberately violated the rules of the very covenant they sought out. Yes churches can allow candidates to speak with the congregation but the operative word here is candidates with an “s.” The House was aware they broke the rules when they allowed Stu Gilman, a church board member to speak and have tables at the back of the sanctuary for people to sign up to help with his campaign. They made a point of excluding Jake Wenger. And now they’ve done it again with the two Sheriff’s candidates.
When Jeff Dirkse was introduced to the congregation it was obvious he was the, if you’ll pardon the expression, chosen candidate. Here is Pastor Glen’s opening comment for a man he admits to just meeting.
Pastor Glen Bertreau, speaking to congregation: “Let me do this before I get started. Jeff Dirske is here – good friend – he is running for sheriff of Stanislaus County, and I met him the other day and what a great brother, meeting him.” The entire transcript will be posted towards the end of the article.
What’s most important here is that according to Juan Alanis, well lets hear it in his own words…From the Juan Alanis for Sheriff 2018 facebook page answering if he had been asked to speak, Juan Alanis for Sheriff 2018 responding to Gaetana Rohrer-Drake, “I have reached out to Glen Berteau months ago when I first started campaigning and never received a call back.”
So after watching the video and reading the transcript we decided to go and try to meet with Pastor Glen Berteau in person to ask him a few simple questions regarding his and by extension his church’s actions.
We arrived at 10:30 between 9 and 11 o’clock services. As we entered the Church we couldn’t help but notice the large ‘We Love Our Pastors’ signs being passed out to all church members. We had arranged to meet with someone from The House to assist with meeting with Pastor Glen but unfortunately that didn’t happen so instead we worked our way over to the information desk only to be turned back around and go back past their version of ‘Starbucks’ to go to ‘the room’ where you meet with Pastors. There we met with ‘Pastor Mike’ and his wife. After explaining the reason for our visit he didn’t know if we would be able to meet with Pastor Glen but would do his best to check. We went back out to see if we could see anyone one we knew. That is where the picture was taken.
Fortunately MID Board member and a member of The House’s Board, Stu Gilman, came to meet with us. I had met Stu before at an MID meeting. Stu pointed out that this was a 25th anniversary and Love Our Pastor’s Day. Pastor Glen leaves the Briggsmore and Coffee address to go to The Church Downtown after the 9 AM service and is back before he takes the stage during the 11 AM service (he isn’t present at the start of the services or necessarily at their ends). Stu was kind enough to inform us the Pastor was also leaving for Sweden on Tuesday and wouldn’t be back until June, so there probably wouldn’t be time for a conversation before then.
When I walked through the reasons for my trying to get a visit with the Pastor and my concerns about Juan Alanis trying to speak to the congregation Stu said while he couldn’t speak for Pastor Glen, but he himself wasn’t aware of any attempts by Juan or his campaign to contact Pastor Glen or The House in general. He suggested that if the Alanis campaign had called that maybe the message was lost between the church secretary and the Pastor. “You know how messages can get lost” was his follow-up response. One thing I can say for sure is that we’ve been trying to contact Pastor Glen since the MID campaign and he has yet to return our calls. It isn’t a requirement that he respond to our call, not by a long shot, but ours aren’t the only calls he’s been dodging. The multiple complaints against The House by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and private citizens to the I.R.S., hopefully will eventually take their toll. The list of people calling and getting no response from Pastor Glen and or The House keeps getting longer and longer.
We can’t prove that the Alanis campaign did or didn’t contact The House, but after seeing the effect of Pastor Glen’s support of Stu Gilman (a candidate with no knowledge or expertise in electrical or water issues), in the MID race, it’s hard to believe that the Alanis campaign didn’t reach out to them. One thing for sure is that after the controversy over Stu Gilman’s MID race, The House and Pastor Glen didn’t make his actions (recommending political candidates) blindly and without forethought.
It’s obvious that The House broke its Covenant with its church members and with the People of the United States. The only way to get them to stop is to repudiate their actions and vote against any candidate they illegally promote.
The following is a complete transcript of one of the three services at The House where Jeff Dirkse was introduced to the congregation:
Pastor Glen Bertreau, speaking to congregation: Let me do this before I get started. Jeff Dirske is here – good friend – he is running for sheriff of Stanislaus County, and I met him the other day and what a great brother, meeting him. This man here, he graduated from West Point. We don’t have many people from our area from West Point. And got out of West Point. You’ve got to be pretty sharp to even get in, plus graduate, and you come out an officer. Then he went to Iraq, fought in Iraq for us and probably had near-death ex – let me just introduce him. Welcome Jeff, right here. Come on. Give him a big hand. Let’s honor one of our former – one of our soldiers here.
Bertreau to Dirske: Hi, Jeff. God bless you, buddy. Good to have you here. Sandy’s in the back – his wife is back there – they’ve been here all three services. All three services they’ve been here and this is the first time they’ve been over here. Aren’t you glad you came? Wasn’t it fun?
Jeff Dirske: Very much so, thank you.
Bertreau to congregation: And Jeff is – as you know, Adam Christianson, we we know, is retiring, he’s just gonna retire. And so they’re gonna have a new race here, new sheriff’s race and Jeff – I’m gonna let him tell it. I could tell it, but Jeff why don’t you greet our people here, there’s a lot of people that are here at our service. He was here at our 9:00, he went over with me to the Downtown, and now he’s here at this. I said these are all different people here, you don’t know who they are, and so I want you to greet all our people.
Bertreau to Dirske: They all love you.
Dirske to congregation: Well good morning, everyone and thanks for having me – I appreciate the opportunity to be here. And before I talk a little bit I actually want to say thank you – I want to say thank you to the House and this congregation and the church. You have been very supporting of law enforcement over the years and and unfortunately before even the 9:00 service this is not the first time I’ve had to stand in front of you. I’ve had to speak at the death of one of our employees, and on behalf of law enforcement, thank you for that. (applause) So – yeah, please give yourself a hand. So I grew up here in Stanislaus County. My family is in farming, and quite frankly, I thought that that’s what I would do when I grew up. And then in high school I kind of felt a different pull, and I fell the pull towards the military, and I ended up at West Point, as Pastor Glen has already talked about. Graduated from there in 1994 and served 5 ½ years in the U.S. Army the first time. And then some things changed, some family dynamics, my father had cancer, and we felt the pull to come home. And there was kind of a circuitous route, I’m not going to go into the details of that, but we made a couple of stops along the way and we ended up back here farming, all of which we thought is exactly what God wanted us to do, and then September 11th happened. And by 9:00 that morning I knew that I would be back in service somehow. And so then that circuitous route that God took us on became apparent, and the why became apparent, and I ended up commanding a company in Iraq in 2005. (applause) And that was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life.
Bertreau to Dirske: And you’ve had – was it four near – didn’t you have four almost near death – you could have died about four times in Iraq, right?
Dirske to Bertreau: Yes, my vehicle was hit four times by IEDs. The closest one was about 65 pounds going off from me to you. And 65 pounds of explosives is an awful lot. And other than a concussion, I came out unscathed (applause). Thank you.
Bertreau: It’s really a miracle.
Dirske: Thank you. But I bring up Iraq because it was definitely a call, it was God’s call that took us there. I did not have to do that. I had a wife and three kids at home and I was really completely out of the military. And before I went my dad said do you really want to go to war? And I said no, I don’t, but I have to. And that – it was a rough year. But it was also the most rewarding year that I think I’ve ever experienced, because I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. Now I’m back here, obviously I’ve been in law enforcement now for several years since then, and looking to take this next step. And this, again, is I think exactly where God wants me. And public safety, protecting people is just a calling that I have. It defines who I am. And I know that even though politics is not always the most fun, but my family knows that this is exactly what God wants us to do. So thank you.
Bertreau: So you feel a call. There is a calling. As I would have a calling or you (gesturing to audience) have a calling to do what God wants you to do. There is a calling that is there. There’s really a closeness with law enforcement, that’s just what I feel, because we’re both in an area of helping people, we just help in two different ways. And it is a calling to do what you want to do, to even lay your life on the line every day. But I thank God we have people – and you know what, we talk about this that we need Christian people in areas of influence in our city, right? (applause) So would you just thank Jeff for hearing from God, running for Sheriff, God’s will will be done. Amen. Thanks Jeff, for being here. Appreciate you. Sandy, God bless you.