A photo of John Oliver with the title secularist of the week and

‘Theocrat’ wants school chaplains while ‘secularist’ John Oliver warns about Project 2025


FFRF Action Fund’s “Secularist of the Week” is John Oliver, the immensely popular host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” for using his platform to focus on the growing threat of Project 2025. In contrast, an executive team member of the National School Chaplain Association is our “Theocrat of the Week” for championing reckless chaplain-in-public-school bills.

At the National Association of Christian Lawmakers’ scary 2024 Policy Conference at Liberty University in early June, a panel was held to promote legislation authorizing chaplains to proselytize students during school hours. Our “theocrat,” National School Chaplain Association staffer and legislative ambassador Jim Schmidt, credited the success of passing such legislation in two states (Florida and Louisiana) to the Christian Lawmakers’ guidance. Schmidt said Texas paved the way for the Christian Lawmakers and the Chaplain Association’s nationwide strategy to implement school chaplain programs.

 “We do get some resistance from within telling us: ‘Who gives us the right to do this?’” Schmidt confided. “But, when there is a move of God, then you just get out of the way… so this is going to happen.” Schmidt prognosticated that at least 12 states will pass the bill by this time next year.

Fellow panelist and Texas School Board of Education member Julie Pickren claimed that “there are certain things happening inside our public schools that only God [can] fix.” Louisiana state Sen. Mark Abraham, another panelist, said that Muslims would not qualify as “certified chaplains” under school chaplains legislation. Schmidt repeatedly affirmed that the Satanic Temple would not be permitted to partake in school chaplain programs. The Christian Lawmakers panelists made it clear they view these programs as a way to insert the Christian god into public schools. 

In contrast, our “secularist,” the prominent comedian, television host and political commentator John Oliver, is concerned about the looming threat of Donald Trump’s possible second term and what the game plan will be once he’s back in the Oval Office. Oliver provided a long riff about this gameplan, Project 2025, during his Sunday program.

Project 2025 is the detailed conservative framework to ensure that Trump can make as many changes as possible as quickly as possible if he is reelected president. Oliver warns, “Even if he does meet resistance from Congress and the courts, he will now have ways to go around them.” Oliver summarizes Project 2025 by saying it gives Trump “a step-by-step gameplan that he simply has to execute and then take credit for.” 

Project 2025 would allow Trump to seize executive power and undermine countless civil rights. It has established a “conservative LinkedIn,” with a network of prospective hires ready to fill positions throughout the federal government. As Oliver jokes, “It’s essentially an open audition for people who might want a new job because they lost their old one back on January 6, for some reason.” FFRF Action Fund has warned that Project 2025 presents multiple serious threats to the separation between state and church. Most fundamentally, it plans to consolidate power in the Oval Office, which in a Trump presidency will once again be filled with prosperity gospel preachers like Paula White and other Christian nationalists.

Oliver called the proposed Schedule F the “most insidious” Project 2025 mandate. This would reclassify approximately 50,000 career civil servants as political appointees, meaning civil servants would no longer have protection from getting fired because of politics, and experienced civil servants would be replaced with only those loyal to Trump and conservative ideologies. “When you fire everyone who knows what they’re doing and only hire people who will say yes to the rich guy in charge, that’s not a recipe for good government,” Oliver comments. 

Oliver concluded his warning against Project 2025 and the threat of Donald Trump’s candidacy: “For anyone tempted to think, ‘Well, we survived Trump’s first term’ — first, not everyone did. And it should hopefully be very clear by now, a second Trump term really does promise to be far, far worse. Because if Trump’s first term was defined by chaos, his second could be defined by ruthless efficiency.” 

FFRF Action Fund thanks Oliver for using his platform to educate the public about the dangers of Project 2025. Only someone like him can provide effective pushback to the theocratic plans of folks such as the National School Chaplain Association staffer.

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.