Chaz Stevens has been something of a gadfly in Broward County for a good decade, but he went national two years ago, when he made a very public point about the separation of church and state. He claimed to be a Satanist and applied to place a "Festivus Pole" made of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans in the rotunda of Florida's capitol building, next to a nativity scene.
Stevens — who threatened to sue if he was denied the chance to express his "religion" while a Christian display was allowed to stand — prevailed, and after the pole went up in the Capitol, he was featured in international newspapers and on the Daily Show; he says his pole was also recently incorporated into a show at the New York Public Theatre called The War on Christmas: Let Me Ascertain You.
This year, Stevens is changing his game a little bit, removing the Pabst cans (the company didn't want to sponsor his shenanigans so he refuses to "give them free advertising") and replacing it with a rainbow-colored, gay-themed pole.
Stevens says he was inspired by Kim Davis, the clerk from Kentucky who refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. "That drove me nuts," Stevens says. "You should be able to marry, love and divorce whoever you want. Boy and boy, girl and girl — it's been decided. These rednecks from Kentucky said, 'Screw you.' I wanted to tweak these people. What better way than to put up a gay pride pole right next to baby Jesus? It's not only the War on Christmas, but the Gay War on Christmas."
Stevens says he intends to get his rainbow pole in the Florida capitol building again this year, and will also erect them in Deerfield, Delray and Tamarac. He says he also is seeking permission to put up poles in Arkansas (Little Rock), DC (he is awaiting help from Sen. Bill Nelson on this), Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Greenwich Village, Conn. (home to Gretchen Carlson, Stevens' nemesis since she expressed outrage at his antics.) He says he also sent a letter to presidential candidate Mike Huckabee asking him to support his efforts in Arkansas.
Stevens says he's selling poles to raise money for his "Humanity Fund" and will give proceeds to groups that protect LGBT youth from bullying.
In addition to his Festivus activism, Stevens has applied to give "Satanic invocations" at city and county commission meetings that typically allow prayer. He says that so far, four cities — Deerfield, Delray, Coral Springs and Dania Beach — chose not to accommodate him and instead changed their policies to allow a moment of silence instead of prayer. Six municipalities denied his requests (and he intends to sue four of them). He has requests pending in Fort Lauderdale, Boynton Beach, Wellington and Sarasota.
Stevens admits that "this whole thing is performance art, or performance trolling," but he's happy to see it affecting change.
He says he's "always been tolerant of others beliefs" except when "people's belief in God causes them to fly planes into buildings or deny people their rights."
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