Vishal P. Singh
Chino Valley Unified School Board President Sonia Shaw is rapidly becoming a household name in Southern California. The firebrand politician has been dubbed a "trailblazer" by the California Republican Party, and her efforts to strip transgender and non-binary youth in her district of civil rights by enforcing an illegal outing policy has received national attention and inspired copycat anti-LGBTQ+ policies in five other state school districts. However, for Chino Valley Unified, the outing policy in question was recently halted by a judge following California Attorney General Rob Bonta's lawsuit against Shaw's district which dubbed the policy illegal and unconstitutional— and act which brought on the ire of Shaw and her extremist acolytes. Despite constant spats with California Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Superintendent Tony Thurmond, Shaw's political trajectory goes far beyond Sacramento. As previously reported on VPS Reports: Sonja Shaw has been confirmed as a speaker at the Pray Vote Stand Summit. The most recent promotional material for the summit lists Shaw as a headliner alongside former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, megachuch pastor Jack Hibbs, and conservative Christian leader Gina Gleason. Shaw will be rubbing shoulders with the leaders of the Republican Party and taking center stage for a Make America Great Again Christian nationalist movement alongside Trump himself. The Daily Beast has reported on how Hibbs and his megachurch have helped push Shaw and her hateful policies into the limelight. Now: we are seeing these strategies manifest.
The Pray Vote Stand Summit, which describes itself as a “national gathering of spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives” is organized by the Family Research Council, a powerful and shadowy evangelical think-tank and engine for far-right lobbying. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Family Research Council as a hate group, noting that their “intention is to dehumanize LGBTQ+ people as the organization battles against LGBTQ+ rights. In the past, this included stances against same-sex marriage, hate-crime laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.” Founded in 1983, the group has long pushed debunked anti-LGBTQ+ myths falsely portraying all queer people as “groomers” and “child sex abusers”— myths which are now seeing a huge mainstream resurgence.
In addition to their support for so-called “conversion therapy” (which is a process of torture used against LGBTQ+ people)— the Family Research Council spent $25,000 to lobby Congress against condemning a bill proposed in Uganda that would punish gay people with the death penalty. The President of Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, praised the genocidal anti-LGBTQ+ legislation proposals in Uganda, which he called “efforts to uphold moral conduct.” Perkins has ties to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and paid for Ku Klux Klan member David Duke’s mailing list “for use in a Louisiana political campaign he was managing” according to SPLC.
What is the endgame here? Why are Republicans groups with shadowy motives and bottomless pockets interested in a local school board president? Enter Project 2025: an autocratic and eliminationist policy project with unprecedented backing from a massive coalition of ultranationalist dark money groups and right-wing think tanks. Their proposals would radically upend the longstanding democratic processes of the United States and transform the country into an autocratic state with consolidated executive power. The project explicitly lays out a plan to genocide all LGBTQ+ people by following a Uganda-style template. We’ve been witnessing step 1: influencing U.S. culture to conflate being LGBTQ+ with sex. Then Step 2: rewriting laws nationwide to imprison all LGBTQ+ people and charge them as sex offenders. Which takes us back to the Uganda bill giving the death penalty for LGBTQ+ people that was endorsed by Family Research Council.
Because Family Research Council is part of the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 coalition. Now, the context is clear. Shaw is a cog in a larger political scheme that wishes to usher in an era of authoritarianism and persecution in the United States. Trump has already promised to abide by this kind of genocidal and fascist vision. DeSantis is already enforcing such a vision in his own state.
Armed with the knowledge of this existential threat, it's up to the people of the United States to respond accordingly.