Timeline of Chaz Stevens
The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart referred to Stevens as the “General Patton of the War on Christmas.” Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said she was personally outraged by his Festivus displays. Bill O’Reilly called Stevens a “pinhead.”
In an interview with Slate Magazine, Stevens said, “It’s all about our First Amendment. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to redress your grievances. Freedom to yell at the government and not get arrested. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re stretching the very fabric of the First Amendment. That’s what this is all about.”
According to Dan O’Keefe, who co-wrote the Seinfeld episode, “Am I to understand that some humanoid expressed outrage that the baby Jesus was behind a pole made of beer cans? I was honestly surprised anyone gave a flying fuck.”
Stevens’ motivation for the pole is “for the sheer stupidity of it,” he told Michael Mayo of the Sun-Sentinel. Mayo writes, “[…]His goal isn’t to mock Christmas or any religious holiday, but to protest what he sees as the inappropriate melding of church and state. Even though he’s atheist, he says he’s no Grinch: He gives out gifts to friends and family, has an aluminum tree in his home and plans on donating the proceeds of an eBay auction of his rotunda Festivus pole…”
Stevens’ request to erect a Gay Pride Festivus Pole on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds in Little Rock was denied.
Reported by MTV News, Stevens’ noted, “It’s crazy, isn’t it? The fact that Arkansas thinks the Ten Commandments is a historical document – ludicrous, beyond ludicrous. Courts across the land have well established the fact that it’s all or nothing. The premise is all or nothing – if you open a forum up, allowing one religion in, you have to allow everybody in.”
Stevens also set up an Anti-Trump Festivus Pole in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and Delray Beach, Florida. “Wrapped with an upside-down American flag (acknowledging the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for the Pumpkin in Chief), this year’s pole is shorter, a shout-out to Donald’s tiny hands,” Stevens said. “We’ve donned Distresstivus with the infamous Make America Great Again red cap, and fastened it all together with a big ol’ safety pin.”
Stevens’ stated objective was to “troll every city that allows religious displays on government property to get them to change their policies.”
In response to his request, the City of Deerfield Beach denied Stevens’ application and removed all religious invocation before meetings, replacing them with a simple moment of silence.
Stevens’ efforts forced several city councils to abandon the prayer practice altogether, as Deerfield Beach, Coral Springs, and Delray Beach adopted similar resolutions.
Said commission chairman Jimmy Conner, “There won’t be any satanic prayers while I’m chairman. The man isn’t going to bully me.[…] But we’re not going to spread devil worshipping in our chamber.” Writes the Orlando Sentinel, “Jimmy’s politics are slightly to the right of Attila the Hun and always have been.” Conner says if he needs to file lawsuits and go to court, he’ll rally churches to raise money. Liberty Counsel, the Orlando-based group who represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, defended Lake County against Stevens.
Stevens’ requests to display a similar cross in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Doral, Florida, were denied.
In an effort to ban Stevens’ public records requests, at the September 2011 Board of Commissioners meeting, the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority adopted a resolution outlawing “improper” requests for public records. From the resolution: “Lewd, abusive or other improper requests for records. The DBHA will deny any ‘request’ made using harassing, obscene, offensive , discriminatory, lewd, sexually suggestive, sexually explicit, pornographic, intimidating, defamatory, derogatory, violent language or communication in any form or which contains profanity or vulgarity, regardless of intent as an improper request not made for the purpose of obtaining public records under the Florida Constitution or Florida Public Records Act.” After passage, Stevens filed three additional records requests, titled “Lewd, harassing, vulgar, and utterly fucking profane Public Records Request,” “Another utterly fucking rude Public Record Request,” and “Sexually Suggestive Public Records Request.”
Stevens’ research also produced a list of 51 addresses for Rankin, all since 1983, spanning eight states and the District of Columbia.
The FEC, responding to Stevens’ complaint, indicated it didn’t have the jurisdiction to decide what was and wasn’t a contribution. Mack lost to Nelson by over one million votes.
Stevens filed a Florida Bar complaint against Florida State Senator Maria Sachs (D), alleging Sachs lived outside state Senate district by declaring residence in Delray Beach, Florida. Sachs’ lawyer for the bar complaint, Robert Rivas, filed a response calling Stevens’ complaint “pure politics.”
Stevens contacted Christopher Pate, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and told him about a suspicious campaign check. Based on Stevens’ information, Pate worked up a grand theft and official misconduct case against Gonot.
Stevens’ complaint, filed with the State’s Attorney Office, against Allen for bid-tampering was rejected. The State’s Attorney Office memorandum, however, was not a glowing one for Allen. It said the investigation showed he “circumvented a competitive bidding process by using a sole-source contract for services to the city,” and that his action may have cost the city thousands of dollars.
As reported by Miami Herald in July 2018, “Chaz Stevens…threatened to install a ‘big happy dong on public property‘ if an eruv gets approved in Hallandale Beach.”
Stevens retired from activism in 2018 to focus on his professional and personal endeavors. He is the founder and current CEO of Boca Raton, Florida-based ESADoggy, an organization that has been providing emotional support animal-related services across the globe since 2015.
Commissioner Anthony Sanders, a minister, said he was worried people might think City Hall is endorsing satanic views. Sanders, accused of misconduct by Broward County, Florida Inspector General John Scott, resigned his commission seat in 2017.
While officials in many places were accommodating, his request to display a rainbow Festivus pole was denied in Arkansas. Stevens told TIME that his goal for 2016 was to erect displays in all fifty state capitols to push back against what he called “Christian privilege.”
In 2016, Stevens formed the Religious Liberty Project, a first amendment advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of speech and religion, especially the separation of church and state. The mission of the Religious Liberty Project was equal rights for all, with a focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.
In 2016, after eight years in office, Jimmy Connor lost his seat to librarian Wendy Breeden.
In January 2016, Hallandale Beach, Florida, Mayor Joy Cooper proposed a resolution to mount the words “In God We Trust” above the dais in commission chambers at City Hall. Stevens countered with a request to display a banner with the motto “In Satan We Trust.” The request was rejected by town officials.
On February 26, 2016, after receiving permission from South Carolina state officials, Stevens erected a display, an inverted crucifix adorned with a neon-lit silhouette of Jesus embedded with an interactive butt plug, on the grounds of the State House.
Members of the Church of Satanic Activism and Perpetual Soiree attended the Republican debate at the University of Miami on March 10, 2016, dressed in inflatable penis costumes and masks of then-Presidential-candidate Donald Trump.
Members attended the March 10, 2016 Republican Party presidential debate in Miami, Florida. Stevens noted, “For a blow-up penis suit, our made-in-China models feature cutting edge technology – gold confetti will spew forth, and the energy-efficient inflation device will make sure these dicks are ready to answer the call. Even a call at 3 am.”
Members also attended a March 15, 2016 GOP rally in Boca Raton, Florida. Said Stevens, “We’ve purchased every single penis costume available on the Internet. We’ve sent some to other states and six to Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate.”
In 2016, the New Times Broward-Palm Beach named Stevens one of the Best Activists in Broward County. New Times reporter Jerry Ianneli reported, “With a careful eye on local politics and a computer ever ready to dash off formal complaints, he has forced out of office several politicians, including the Mayor of Deerfield Beach, and sent a few to jail. Stevens made international headlines[…] and continues to rail against corruption and mismanagement.”
In 2015 Stevens launched the Gay Pride Festivus Pole, with donations supporting various LGBT youth organizations. Changing the pole’s design after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, Stevens also launched similar pole displays in the Capitols of nine other states, including Washington, Georgia, Illinois, and Oklahoma.
Stevens originally received permission to display a Gay Pride Festivus Pole at the Oklahoma capitol building. “Out goes the Ten Commandments,” Stevens said in the posting for his advocacy group. “In comes the gay pride Festivus pole. It’s a beautiful way to talk about 2015.” However, rapidly-applied changes to Oklahoma’s state administrative rules revoked Stevens’ permission. Said state Representative Bobby Cleveland (R), “Many representatives said they have received angry calls from constituents who want the State Capitol to be free of displays or artwork that do not glorify God.”
In 2015, the city commission terminated Allen’s contract.
Stevens returned to Tallahassee in 2014 to erected another beer-can inspired Festivus pole in the Capitol rotunda. Stevens also erected poles in Delray Beach, Florida, and Tamarac, Florida.
Stevens sought to install a Shinto phallic sculpture in response to requests by local rabbis in Hallandale, FL to erect a series of poles creating an eruv on city property. The eruv would require the installation of nine poles to create an invisible extension to Jewish homes, thereby allowing the families to accomplish specific tasks otherwise prohibited on the Sabbath — a religious loophole. In response to this request, Stevens threatened to erect a “big happy dong” which is part of the Shinto Kanamara Matsuri (“Festival of the Steel Phallus”), held each spring at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan on the first Sunday in April. Stevens said he plans to, “come to town with a platoon of giant dongs should the eruv win approval, one for each of the nine poles.”
William Rankin, from Deerfield Beach, Florida, was the 2014 Democratic candidate for the office of Florida chief financial officer. Rankin lost the general election on November 4, 2014. Incumbent Jeff Atwater (R) was re-elected in a landslide victory. Citing Rankin campaign expenditure worries, Stevens filed an official complaint with theFlorida Elections Commission which agreed that Rankin had violated Section 106.07(5), Florida Statutes, when he certified his 2013 M11 Report was true, correct, and complete when it was not.
Capellini was charged, suspended from office, and, in 2014, tried in criminal court on the same charge that he took $10,000 from a developer for a project he voted on as Mayor. Broward Circuit Judge Marc Gold later dismissed the charges.
In 2014, Stevens won his second New Times Best of Broward-Palm Beach for Best Publicity Stunt. Wrote the New Times, “Stevens took his battle a step further and applied to display his pole in the rotunda of the state Capitol as well – a stunt that was, astonishingly, approved by the powers-that-be. Stevens drove to Tallahassee to install his ‘serious feat of ridiculousness.’ During the month that it stood, the Festivus Pole earned worldwide media coverage (including accolades from the Daily Show and the Colbert Report).”
Stevens first made headlines in 2013 by winning the right to install a Festivus pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans in the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee. Stevens’ investigative reporting and subsequent criminal complaints led to the arrest of Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini and Commissioners Steve Gonot and Sylvia Poitier. Stevens is popularly known for his innovative methods of promoting the separation of church and state.
“Stevens is the face of the new media. He is the new version of a city hall gadfly– electronically empowered, fighting the power structure with bits and bytes,” writes Buddy Nevins of Broward Beat.
When a 2013 municipal rule in Deerfield Beach banned all privately funded holiday displays on public property, Stevens set his sights on the State of Florida and petitioned for and was granted permission to erect a Festivus pole at the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee, alongside the building’s Christmas tree and Nativity scene.
On December 11, 2013, Stevens erected a Festivus pole, made from 14 empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans, in Capitol rotunda, just down the hall from Governor Rick Scott’s office.
In the opening segment “War on Christmas – S#@t’s Getting Weird Edition,” The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart referred to Stevens as the “General Patton on the war on Christmas.” Fox News host Gretchen Carlson lamented, “I am so outraged by this. Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for nativity scenes and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, kids, look. There’s Baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans!” Fox News host Bill O’Reilly called Stevens a “pinhead.”
The 2013 Pabst Blue Ribbon Festivus Pole was sold on eBay for $450, with proceeds donated to Women in Distress.
The Phoenix City Council voted 5–4 to start its meetings with a moment of silence instead of religious prayer. Sal DiCiccio, Phoenix City Council, lashed out in the news about the decision of banning all prayer at council meetings. Stevens, following the Phoenix scene, sent him a 9-pound butt plug saying that he is going to push back whenever he sees government stupidity.
In July 2013, longtime Dania Beach, Florida City Commissioner Pat Flury reportedly quit in response to Stevens posting photos of her on his website wearing fake glasses and a penis nose.
Stevens blasted Maggiore on his blog, complete with a photo of the Mayor with a penis as his nose and calling him “Varicose Dick Vein.” Stevens also suggested a litany of various illegal activities – “burglaries, drug activity, and unpaid hookers” – along with a pledge to Maggiore and the remaining city leaders: he will be the fellow who will “crawl up your sizable racist ass.”
Stevens began celebrating the fictitious holiday known as Festivus in 2012, when he set up an 8-foot tall Festivus pole, made from empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans, next to the nativity scene and menorah, on public property in his hometown of Deerfield Beach, Florida. The first version of the Festivus pole was made from 23 cans. According to Stevens, “it would have been 24 cans, a full case, but a production error led one of his elves to mistakenly discarding a can that had been drunk.”
Stevens submitted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) questioning Representative Connie Mack (R) and his $18,000 campaign contribution in the race for the 2012 U.S. Senate. That race pitted Mack against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.
In December 2012, Jonathan Allen, City Manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida threatened to sue Stevens. Allen’s father and well-known civil rights lawyer W. George Allen warned Stevens of action “on behalf of Lauderdale Lakes City Manager Jonathan Allen ‘for civil damages growing out of your collective repeated false allegations, threats, attempted extortion, slander, libel, defamation, and invasion of privacy.’”
In September 2011, acting upon concerns raised by Stevens, U.S. Representative Allen West requested the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General investigate and audit the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority. In early January 2012, a federal investigation into the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority requested by West discovered no wrongdoing.
In April 2011, Deerfield Beach, Florida City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, Broward County’s first black county commissioner, was arrested and charged with four misdemeanor counts of allegedly falsifying official records, and one count of allegedly causing records to be falsified through statements she made during a commission meeting.
Stevens was instrumental in focusing HUD’s attention on the city and law enforcement’s attention on Poitier. On April 12, 2011, Poitier surrendered at the Broward County Jail, arrested and booked on charges of falsifying official records. On January 11, 2012, Poitier was sentenced to one year of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine Wednesday for falsifying city records.
In 2010, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ordered Deerfield Beach’s Community Development Division to return $225,000 after auditors found that Poitier violated federal rules intended to curb favoritism.
Chaz Stevens was awarded the 2010 New Times Best of Broward-Palm Beach Best Gadfly for his political activism. New Times reporter Tom Francis wrote, “Stevens has earned a much larger portion of the muckraking credit, having investigated a slew of nonprofit agencies that were loosely linked to Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, the former Broward County commissioner with a political career that spans three decades.”
Jean-Marie Mark, a longtime city employee of Chinese descent and the city’s Town Clerk from 2009 was fired in June 2015, a result of an effort by Hillsboro Beach Mayor Richard Maggiore.
In 2008, based on a complaint filed by Stevens, Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini was charged with unlawful compensation for voting on a project in which he had a business interest.
Stevens filed a lawsuit against the City of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida for failing to comply with Florida Public Record law. In a 23-page lawsuit, filed by attorney David Frankel, Stevens says that the city has yet to provide requested copies of all Community Redevelopment Agency contracts in excess of $50,000, from 2008 to 2013.
According to her arrest affidavit, in May 2006, Poitier proposed sending a $30,000 grant to the Westside Deerfield Businessman Association – the same agency her brother had loaned $46,000 to – and then voted on the proposal without any disclosure of the relationship or filing of the necessary paperwork.
The Festivus pole is the central comic conceit in the celebration of Festivus, a bizarre and agonizing December 23 holiday made famous by “The Strike,” a 1997 episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld.
Chaz Stevens (born August 31, 1964) is an American entrepreneur, journalist, and constitutional activist. He is the executive director of The Humanity Fund which focuses on the separation of church and state by lobbying against any religious expression on government property. He was the founder and executive director of the Religious Liberty Project, which focused on First Amendment issues. In 2015, Stevens launched the Gay Pride Festivus Pole Generosity Fund, with donations supporting various LGBT youth organizations. Stevens was twice appointed Commissioner to the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority. Stevens is the founder and CEO of ESADoggy, a global organization that provides emotional support animal-related services. Stevens and his projects have been recognized in the New Times Best of Broward-Palm Beach. Stevens himself was named one of the Best Activists in Broward County.
Stevens was born on August 31, 1964, in Newton, New Jersey, to Beatrice Fowler and James G. Stevens. He spent his formative years in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His mother was an administrative assistant. His father was Vice-President of Holy Cross Hospital.