A giant phallus may be coming to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and if that happens, we’ll have Jesus and an atheist to thank.
A couple of months ago, the city hosted a Christmas tree lighting ceremony as well as a Menorah Lighting Celebration. Those were religious celebrations promoted by government officials, suggesting that the public square was open to anyone who wanted to host a similar event.
Enter Chaz Stevens, a local activist known for seeing an opening and driving a monster truck through it. He asked the city earlier this month for permission to host an event of his own on April 2 in honor of Kanamara Matsuri, the Shinto “Festival of the Steel Phallus.”
The centerpiece of that event would be a 300-pound, six-foot-tall pink penis.
He also told city officials that proceeds from the event would be “donated towards [AIDS] research as well as LGBTQIA+ awareness — elevating both artistry and philanthropic causes in tandem!” He also plans to hire a cop to protect his crown jewels.
They asked him to submit an outdoor event application. The event would still have to be approved by an events committee and the city commission, but as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel notes, a rejection may lead to a religious discrimination lawsuit.
Fort Lauderdale may be the first city where this event is taking place but Stevens is hoping it won’t be his last. He’s already made similar requests in several other cities. Only one, Deerfield Beach, has rejected him outright, claiming his display would be “obscene” and “create a safety hazard.” City officials there also added that their understanding of Kanamara Matsuri is that it was more cultural than religious, giving them an out. Stevens told them his attorney would be in touch.
Several mayors, including Fort Lauderdale’s Dean Trantalis, who’s openly gay, said they wouldn’t support the display, but most conceded this was a legal issue and it wasn’t ultimately their call. (Stevens said in an email to city leaders that he would “lovingly” name the giant phallus “Dean.”)
He has modified his thinking, though. Stevens told me last night that his future permits would include plans for an eight-foot-tall fence around the phallus, signage that indicates the R-rated content inside, and enough room for table space within the fencing.
To assist with his future erections, Stevens has set up a GoFundMe page in order to cover the costs of his $8,000 penis sculptures along with any potential lawsuits he may have to file if cities reject the project.
This isn’t Stevens’ first time challenging religious privilege in the name of church/state separation. Back in August, after Texas passed a law requiring public schools to display “In God We Trust” posters donated by outside groups, he sent school districts those signs… written in Arabic. When Florida Republicans opened the door to banning books in public school districts, Stevens demanded they ban the Bible due to inappropriate content. He’s also erected Festivus poles in the Florida Capitol as well as Distress-ivus poles that look like Donald Trump. He’s placed an image of an upside-down butt-plugged Jesus outside a local city hall. He once hired someone to wear a costume of a giant phallus with Trump’s head before a presidential debate.
But getting a giant pink phallus in a major Florida city would be the atheist activist’s biggest win so far. If the city doesn’t want it, all it has to do is promise to stop hosting religious events altogether.