SOUTH FLORIDA — A South Florida political stunt activist has set his sights on his latest target — the great state of Texas.
For Chaz Stevens’ latest initiative, “Messin’ with Texas,” he’s raising money to print and send posters that read, “In God we trust,” written in Arabic to Lone Star State public schools in the wake of a new state law.
Texas Senate Bill 797, which passed in May 2021, requires schools to display a poster reading, “In God we trust,” if it’s donated to the school or purchased using private donations.
“The law said they had to be durable and framed with no other words, images or such,” Stevens, who founded the Mount Jab Church of Mars activist group, told Patch. “I was biking along the beach in Lauderdale when it hit me. ‘Well, (expletive), they never said they had to be in English.’”
The bill was crafted by Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes — “the right wing of the right wing,” Stevens said. “Here he is trolling the U.S. Constitution and he didn’t expect some dumb (expletive) from Florida to out-troll him. Stupid acts sometimes require a stupider action.”
He launched a GoFundMe for the project on Aug. 21. As of Friday morning, it’s raised more than $48,000.
Labels, tubes, acid-free paper, printing costs, it all adds up, he said. So do attorney’s fees.
Stevens plans to take schools who turn down his signs to court over First Amendment rights.
“That’s a lot of lawyering if you have to get a lawyer involved,” he said.
As he launched the project, he initially turned to Google Translate to design the sign. The result?
“It said, ‘In God we trusted,’ oops,” he said, “which got a lot of people in the Middle East really pissed off with me because you’re messing with Allah. And the far-left Twitter called me an ‘angry, white colonist.’”
He added, “It did not occur to me that it was wrong. Arabic has different fonts, different calligraphy sets. The English language has 26 letters and letters form words and words form language and language forms thoughts.”
Writing in Arabic is much different, since it doesn’t use a traditional alphabet. Each “icon” has a different meaning, Stevens said. “It didn’t occur to me. I should have thought about this, that the words in Arabic have meaning and each have different meanings.”
So, he hired experts — interpreters, linguists and calligraphers — from other parts of the world, including Gaza, Pakistan and Cairo, to properly translate “In God we trust” into Arabic.
He sent his first batch of posters out Thursday and hopes to send out about 1,000 total throughout Texas.
Stevens also made his design part of the public domain, so anyone can use it.
Because it’s in public domain, he’s already gotten his first rejection from a school district. Someone presented the sign in Arabic, as well as an “In God we trust” sign with rainbow gay pride colors, to the Carroll Independent School District, just outside Dallas, at a recent school board meeting. The district rejected the donation, claiming it had enough signs, NPR reported.
“They said they don’t have time to sort through all the donations,” Stevens said. “There’s lots of court cases talking about equal access and when the government doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide for all they have to provide for none.”
He noted that he’s not a legal expert, adding, “However, it seems reasonable to me that they can’t discriminate because, ‘We’re busy.’”
In response to the Carroll school district’s rejection, he’s planning to rent a billboard in the area to display an “In God we trust” poster in rainbow colors and to make similar T-shirts to give out to students.
There are more than 9,000 schools in Texas, though, which makes it difficult for Stevens to track which ones are following the law by displaying his signs, and which aren’t.
“But now I have my own Kiss Army,” he said. “Now, I have an elf army who have given me tons of money and flames, and they want to be involved. They literally are chomping at the bit to be involved. … Now I have boots on the ground.”
There’s a page on Mount Jab’s website that allows people to report to Stevens when a Texas school isn’t hanging one of his donated signs. It also directs people on how they can buy a poster, purchase a yard sign, report illegal posters and donate to his mission.
Stevens’ History of Political Activism in Florida
For years, he’s used stunts like these to protest legislation and raise awareness of various issues, especially First Amendment rights.
In 2013, a Nativity was put on display at the state Capitol building, his holiday exhibit representing Festivus — a fake holiday from the 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld” — was allowed in Tallahassee.
Stevens built the 6-foot Festivus pole using empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and PVC pipe, according to NPR. The made-up holiday also calls for people to celebrate with an “airing of grievances,” where they share their disappointments and issues from the previous year.
In December, he created another non-traditional holiday display in the state Capitol rotunda — cardboard cutouts of Dr. Anthony Fauci dressed as Santa Claus and Fox News show host Tucker Carlson dressed as the grim reaper.
He’s miffed that the state hasn’t approved any other displays he’s submitted since then, including images of DeSantis on the cover of Playboy, a blank sheet of foam board, and sex toys painted with the faces of DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz and former President Donald Trump.
His next step is working with an attorney to figure out how to get his displays approved in Tallahassee.
In 2015, he launched a project called “Satan or Silence” after listening to a religious invocation before a Dania Beach City Commission meeting.
“They said ‘Jesus Christ’ 23 times in under two minutes,” he said.
That’s when Stevens learned “to flip bureaucracy against itself and use the weight of bureaucracy against itself,” he said.
He told the city commission that he was a Satanist seeking equal protection and rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and asked if he could perform a Satanic prayer before a commission meeting. He made similar requests in other South Florida cities.
As a result, several cities, including Dania Beach, Deerfield Beach, Coral Springs and Delray Beach, all dropped prayers from their meetings, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
In July, the town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea invited the activist to perform a Satanic invocation before a commission meeting — the second time they’ve invited him to do so.
And this spring, after the U.S. Supreme Court backed a high school football coach’s right to pray at the 50-yard line, Stevens reached out to a Broward County high school and other Florida schools asking to lead a Satanic invocation at football games.
While Broward largely ignored him after he made his initial request, Stevens recently retained a lawyer and the school district responded within days to the attorney, promising to review the request.
“I didn’t really want to make the 50-yard line a public forum. I just wanted to throw that in just to tighten up their shorts,” he said. “If they had said yes, that would have been mind-bogglingly surprising to me.”
Stevens added, “I am the world’s most imperfect messenger with the world’s most perfect message.”
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