June 2022 Church & State Magazine

Texas Christian Nationalist Arrested After Bizarre Voter Fraud Scheme

  Texas Christian Nationalist Arrested After Bizarre Voter Fraud Scheme

Steven F. Hotze, a Republican Party megadonor, medical doctor and unabashed theocrat in Texas, is facing criminal charges stemming from a bizarre incident tied to his insistence that the 2020 election was going to be stolen by Democrats.

During the lead-up to the election, Hotze became convinced that a white van was traveling all over Houston delivering fake ballots to polling places. Supposedly, the ballots had been filled out by undocumented Latino children and were part of an elaborate plot to throw the election to the Democrats, reported The Washington Post.

Hotze was so worked up over the alleged scheme that he hired a private detective to tail the van. The detective, Mark Aguirre, a former Houston police officer, ran the van off the road on Oct. 19, 2020, and held its driver, David Lopez-Zuniga, a technician who repairs air-conditioners, at gunpoint. The van was found to contain parts for repairing air-conditioners.

When police arrived, Aguirre spun a wild tale about Lopez-Zuniga supposedly having 750,000 fake mail-in ballots at his house. Police went to the house where they found, in the words of one Houston detective, “a family conducting ordinary business.” Police also searched the family’s shed. It contained only parts for repairing air-conditioners.

Unfazed by the failure, Hotze wired Aguirre $211,000 the next day. He used a nonprofit, the Liberty Center for God and Country, to fund this scheme.

Aguirre and Hotze are facing felony criminal charges. As Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement, “The defendants were charged as part of a bizarre scheme that crossed the line from dirty politics to violent crime, and we are lucky no one was killed. The entire plan was backward from the start, alleging massive voter fraud [was to have] occurred and then trying to prove it happened.” (Hotze is also facing a civil lawsuit filed by Lopez-Zuniga.)

Hotze has a long history of peddling conspiracy theories. He pushes QAnon nonsense and has asserted that the COVID-19 pandemic is actually a government-engineered “glo­bal ritual” to “inject experimental nano bots and chemi-kills into our bodies to alter our DNA using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to turn us into zombie-like, controlled masses and weapons of war.”

Hotze first came to Americans United’s attention in the early 1990s after Hotze and a band of fundamentalist allies seized control of the GOP in Harris County, ousting relative moderates who had been running the party unit.

Church & State reported in February 1993 that Hotze argued in a Houston Chronicle op-ed that the United States was founded on “faith in the God of the Bible and his son, Jesus Christ.” Hotze added, “To solve our nation’s social and moral problem, our government must enforce biblical law.”

Hotze was active in a group called the Coalition on Revival (COR), which sought to impose said “biblical law” in America. COR was heavily influenced by Christian Reconstructionism, an overtly theocratic movement that calls for scrapping democracy and basing American law on the legalistic books of the Bible. Under the Reconstructionists, “crimes” such as same-sex relationships, having sex before marriage, practicing witch­craft and blasphemy would be punishable by death.

Double Your Impact!

Give the Gift of Religious Freedom and #BeAShield

Democracy, equality, and freedom all depend on the separation of church and state—and they’re all under attack by a billion-dollar shadow network of religious extremists and their political allies.

To fight their deep pockets, we need you with us! And for the next 36 hours, your tax-deductible gift will have twice the impact!

Match My Gift