Trumpworld Loves Fringe Pastor Tim Thompson Who Bullies LGBTQ Teachers

Earlier this year, a Southern California pastor named Tim Thompson welcomed former President Donald Trump’s attorney Alina Habba to a stage. “I gotta say this is really refreshing from New York City,” Habba chirped at the fancy wedding venue and equestrian center in Temecula. “I’m in God’s country now.”

“Knowing the president the way you do,” asked Thompson, who runs the nonprofit ministry Our Watch, “can you give us three things tonight that we as a group can be praying for him?”

Habba told Thompson’s flock they should pray for America, non-believers, and Trump’s family, adding that, “He’s gonna go down as the best president this country has ever had.”

Now Habba will return to the Los Angeles suburb on Wednesday for another Thompson event—this time, a fundraiser for the pastor’s PAC starring Eric Trump and Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official, that’s expected to draw protests.

How Thompson, a relatively unknown entity, is engaging big-name Republicans to champion his hyperlocal cause is unclear. Nor is it known who’s paying Eric Trump’s potential speaking fee, which is advertised as $50,000 to $100,000.

Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty

A computer screen shows Pastor Tim Thompson leading an online Sunday service at the 412 Church Murrieta in 2020.

Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty

But community members and extremism monitors are on alert for what happens next.

Thompson, who also leads 412 Church Temecula Valley, has made a name for himself in recent years by flouting COVID protocols and targeting teachers and school boards, calling public education “Satan’s playground.”

Through his Inland Empire Family PAC, Thompson boosts Christian conservative school board candidates and is currently defending one Temecula board president he helped to elect who is now facing a recall election.

Thompson, advocates say, is a danger to LGBTQ teachers and families and just one of many rising stars within a national right-wing movement focused on mobilizing Christian foot soldiers against public education.

Meanwhile, experts say Thompson’s politicking violates a federal law that prohibits churches and nonprofits from engaging in campaign activity.

“He believes he’s doing the Lord’s work, and as we know he’s not,” said Rachel Dennis, a queer-affirming pastor who says Thompson’s supporters have bullied her in the past for supporting LGBTQ rights. “He’s destroying people in our town.”

Dennis pointed out that Thompson gets tips from viewers or congregants about LGBTQ teachers, then shows up to area schools to demand answers about them. In one video viewed by The Daily Beast, Thompson was angry that a man “dressed as a woman” was teaching 5-year-olds.

“He’s on a big power trip,” Dennis told The Daily Beast of Thompson. “Obviously Eric Trump and the MAGA crew have realized that Tim is an extremist and will push their extreme agenda.”

Thompson did not return messages left by The Daily Beast.

Last Thursday, he told the AlphaWarrior Show that Jeremy Oliver—a political consultant and ex-One America News producer who’s worked for election-denying Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano and facilitated his attendance at Trump’s Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally—had connected him to Habba.

“When Alina Habba was here, we were having dinner and she said, ‘You know, I think we can get Eric to come out as well,’” Thompson said, adding, “I’m really excited about it because it brings a much-needed energy.”

Thompson went on to call the LGBTQ+ rights movement “a religion” that is trying to impose its values on students and declared that if people love their kids, they would remove them from public schools and homeschool them instead.

In a May 4 talk radio appearance, Thompson claimed Eric Trump had an interest in Temecula affairs. “The Trump family is very well aware of what we have going on here in the Inland Empire,” Thompson said on AM590 The Answer, “very well aware.”

Eric Trump and Patel did not return messages. When reached by The Daily Beast, Habba said she wasn’t doing a fundraiser and referred a reporter to her publicist, who did not reply.

Eric has regularly appeared in court to support his father, as has Habba. On Monday, Patel shared a Truth Social selfie with Eric and Habba with the words, “Walking into battle for @realDonaldTrump” and “Justice For All.”

Thompson’s supposed conduit to Trumpworld, Jeremy Oliver, declined to speak to a Daily Beast reporter. But when asked why Eric Trump and national GOP figures care about Temecula elections, Oliver said, “Why wouldn’t they?”

At Wednesday’s event—which also features Riverside County DA Mike Hestrin—guests can pay $1,000 for VIP seating and a photograph and meet-and-greet with Eric Trump, or snag a sponsorship for as much as $10,000.

Oliver has emerged as a promoter of Thompson’s IE Family PAC fundraisers on social media, including a private concert at Trump-loving country musician John Rich’s Nashville home. The April event advertised tickets starting at $1,300 with sponsorships up to $100,000. It’s unclear how much was raised for Thompson’s group.

The consultant isn’t the pastor’s only link to the far right.

Thompson has used his Our Watch platform to host QAnon-adjacent former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and welcomed conspiracy-monger Marjorie Taylor Greene to 412 Church when other California venues canceled on her.

While backing J6ers, attacking Pride Month, and galvanizing followers to push godly policies at government meetings, Thompson has also found time to visit Mar-a-Lago for a Turning Point USA gala, travel to Israel with AIPAC, and hobnob with Sebastian Gorka at a California conservative conference. His PAC also held a 2022 talk with Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco and British pundit and Islamophobe Katie Hopkins.

The bald-pated evangelist began making headlines in 2020, after orchestrating protests at California’s Capitol against COVID stay-at-home orders.

Around this time, at an anti-lockdown “Freedom Rally,” Thompson donned the insignia of the Three Percenter anti-government militia movement. He’s friends with at least one Three Percenter, Derek Kinnison, a member of 412 Church who was recently sentenced to 33 months behind bars in connection to Jan. 6.

Kinnison and other men livestreamed from D.C. before the Capitol riots and gave Thompson a shoutout. (Nonprofit news outlet Capital & Main reported a second 412 Church member, Ronald Mele, was also convicted.)

“Pastor Tim, we are in evil,” one person shouted in the video. “We are in the heart of the evil right now.”

Indeed, Thompson speaks frequently about battling “evil” on Our Watch—usually in public schools, but he’s also sounded off about tarot cards at Coachella and videos of people “sticking laser beams into their anus.”

In late March, he created a video urging California viewers to run for their local school boards. “We’ve seen Satan creep in, strip away the rights of parents and try to indoctrinate children into filth,” he warned.

Thompson already tipped the scales of the Temecula Valley Unified School District in 2022, helping to give three new right-leaning board members a majority. That year, IE Family PAC raised more than $206,000, filings show. His candidates included Dr. Joseph Komrosky, who is facing a special recall election on June 4.

After the trio assumed office, they immediately banned critical race theory (CRT) and shelled out at least $15,000 in district funds for a consultant to teach staff why CRT is harmful. The panel also passed a policy that forces teachers to “out” transgender kids to their parents and rejected a social studies book because its accompanying teacher materials included gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

“My question is why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky said during one meeting that caught the attention of state officials. “What does that got to do with our curriculum in schools? That’s a form of activism.”

Thompson is using Our Watch to fight Komrosky’s recall, an effort that stems from the board’s politically charged maneuvers costing the district money, including the 2023 firing of the superintendent (she was paid a $362,000 severance) and $8,000 for an analysis of 5G cell towers Komrosky wanted to ban from school grounds.

“What is really scary: Tim is not an isolated incident,” Kristi Hirst, a co-founder of Our Schools USA, a nonprofit that defends public education against right-wing attacks and misinformation, told The Daily Beast. “This is part of a national strategy to use these churches and megachurches to rile up the masses and get voters angry.”

“People trust their pastors greatly, and they’re using that power and that trust to manipulate people, and Tim is another person who does that.”

Thompson is taking a page from nationally connected megachurch pastor Jack Hibbs, whose faithful dominate the nearby Chino Valley Unified school board. As The Daily Beast reported, Hibbs is part of the evangelical powerhouse working to secure Trump’s reelection and has claimed transgender people belong to “a sexually perverted cult.”

Like Hibbs, Thompson uses his pulpit to endorse political candidates in violation of his groups’ tax-exempt status.

Maddy Ziegler, a staff attorney with the nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), said her group lodged a complaint with the IRS about Thompson’s 412 Church after he told his congregation to vote to recall Gov. Gavin Newson in 2021. (Earlier this year, FFRF filed a similar complaint against Hibbs after he endorsed the GOP U.S. Senate candidate Steve Garvey.)

Ziegler said Thompson’s actions continue to violate IRS rules, including Our Watch’s repeated promotion of the Eric Trump fundraiser.

Photograph of Eric Trump.

Eric Trump speaks outside the courthouse during the Trump Organization’s civil fraud trial in 2023.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

“Thompson has crossed the line into illegal partisan campaigning,” Ziegler told The Daily Beast. “Nonprofit organizations, including churches, cannot support or oppose candidates for office.”

“Some religious leaders would have people believe that these are special restrictions targeting only pastors,” Ziegler said, “but the prohibition on electoral campaigning applies equally to all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.”

Ziegler said it’s crucial churches follow IRS rules because they receive special treatment in not having to follow the usual nonprofit reporting requirements.

“Churches are financial black holes,” Ziegler said, “and without enforcement of the IRS’s regulations, churches can act as PACs whose donations are uniquely untraceable, or take in unlimited tax-deductible contributions and use those funds for political campaigning.”

Thompson recently addressed the controversy on talk radio, saying people have objected to his tax status in letters to the Internal Revenue Service.

“I say it all the time, and I’ve heard Jack Hibbs say it as well. We look into the camera, we say, ‘Hey, we know you’re listening, IRS, come and take it,’ and they never do.”

Last April, Thompson released a video he called “Who’s the pervert? Who’s the hero?” and used it to blast a Riverside high school’s Pride Week. He noted the festivities included pronoun buttons, a scavenger hunt, and drag queen show and directed followers to call the school with complaints. The performer’s appearance was canceled.

“Who’s the pervert that’s allowing this to happen on campus?” Thompson fumed. “Somebody had to approve this so somebody at that school district’s a pervert, and I want to know who it is.”

“Let me remind you… Christian men do not allow perverts around children,” he continued. “So if you’re there on campus, and you’re a man and you’re a Christian, you better do what a Christian man does.”

This spring, Thompson used his platform to share one of his crony’s posts that picked on two trans students at a local middle school: “I’ve had multiple people share with me that there are 2 trans students aka ‘boys’ dressing out in the girls locker room.”

Thompson’s values have also infiltrated the Temecula city council.

When council member Jessica Alexander proposed making Temecula a “sanctuary city” for the unborn in 2022, Thompson and his collaborators appeared at a hearing to support her. (Alexander appeared on Our Watch last year to discuss her proposals to ban LGBTQ and other flags from city property.)

Residents in opposition to the measure like Jennifer Krumm didn’t shy from underscoring the Christian agenda behind it.

“Let’s set aside the Bibles for this one,” Krumm told the council. “Let’s separate church and city. Let’s hush those Tim Thompson voices in your head.”

That comment brought cheers and applause—and, of course, an Our Watch video.

Over the next year, Thompson had teachers in his crosshairs, leading some to be temporarily removed from their schools or face internal investigations.

In May 2023, Thompson took aim at a high school drama teacher for assigning the Pulitzer-winning play Angels in America, which explores the 1980s AIDS epidemic. He called the teacher a “groomer,” accused him of “perverted behavior,” and demanded his firing.

That teacher, Greg Bailey, was placed on leave for more than three months as a result of the culture war that Thompson helped to inflame. In an interview with a local newspaper, the teacher was flummoxed.

“He has never attended my class,” Bailey said. “He has never heard me teach… He knows nothing about my life. He made judgment calls about who I am based on some words in a play that I allow students to read if they choose to.”

Bailey wasn’t alone.

One Murrieta elementary school teacher, who asked for anonymity for her own safety, told The Daily Beast that Thompson targeted her in late 2022 because she launched an LGBTQ-friendly club at the request of her students.

She believes Thompson went after her because she is openly queer and married with children to a woman. During one video, Thompson named the teacher and her wife and flashed an image of her social media on the screen.

“412 Church Temecula Valley Pastor Tim Thompson speaks during the public comment portion during a public board meeting at the Temecula Valley Unified School District headquarters in Temecula on Tuesday, July 18, 2023.”

MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty

On Our Watch’s social media, Thompson shared footage of himself and a sidekick showing up unannounced to both the teacher’s school and district office. The educator, he falsely claims, was “talking to children about sexual things” and “pushing them to use different pronouns.” “She gets very graphic at times,” Thompson told district officials.

When an administrator asked whether Thompson had verified any of this information, he said he received a tip and wanted to ask the teacher herself. (“It wasn’t substantiated,” Thompson admits in a video recap. “This is how you get the answers is you have to go out and ask the question.”)

In another video, Thompson shares the teacher’s TikTok advising people not to assume a student is confused if they say they’re nonbinary. “She is a danger to society,” Thompson told followers. “She is purely a groomer and that kind of stuff has no place in a government-ran school.”

The teacher told The Daily Beast the saga began after several of her students wanted to start a “rainbow club.” The district wouldn’t allow it, and instead, she and other staff launched a “unity club.” During the first meeting, she said, students were asked for their names and pronouns and goals for the organization.

The fourth- and fifth-grade club brainstormed celebrating different cultures and heritages and creating a “buddy bench” for kids who felt lonely at lunch. “It ended up being way more about including everyone and a lot less about anything rainbow club related,” the teacher said.

She said she later discovered a colleague, who attends Thompson’s church, made false accusations about the unity club and brought them to the pastor.

“He claimed I was teaching LGBTQ issues but I wasn’t,” the teacher said. “I simply had a classroom where students were free to be themselves without fear of discrimination. I tried to be myself. I have family pictures up and I have two kids that attend the school I teach at so people knew my kids had two moms and connected the dots about me being queer.”

The unity club only met three times before it was shut down following Thompson’s complaints. The district also placed her under investigation.

“Starting that day I started getting very aggressive threats online,” the teacher said. “He had found my TikTok where I just talk about providing inclusive safe spaces for kiddos and for queer teachers. So he encouraged all of his followers to find me there. People were saying I should be stoned. Someone on Instagram shared they knew what town I lived in and they said they should camp outside my house. It got very crazy very quickly.”

The teacher didn’t believe authorities would do anything about her online harassment because of Thompson’s connections, which include Riverside DA Hestrin and Sheriff Bianco, a onetime member of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government extremist group.

The fallout was immediate. Coworkers alienated her, she had to change her social media, and she is still fearful one of Thompson’s minions is going to recognize her. Even recently a student switched out of her class after their parents saw one of Thompson’s videos.

“He will literally start a fire and walk away,” she said.

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