LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va.—Jon Tigges had been looking forward to his summer vacation this year. He and his wife, Chris, were going to canoe down the Missouri River, a trip they had initially planned for last year but had to cancel due to getting COVID-19 at the end of July 2021.
But a lot has happened since last summer.
Dozens of parents had shown out in force to protest a pro-transgender policy at the Loudoun County school board meeting. The board ended the public comment session early, citing a disruptive crowd. During the recess afterward, the audience chanted “shame on you” to the empty dais and started singing the national anthem.
They then organized their own public comment by taking turns speaking. Soon after, the superintendent declared the meeting to be an “unlawful assembly.” Tigges refused to leave the room and was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing.
He was found guilty and appealed his case to the Loudoun County Circuit Court in October 2021. The trial is scheduled on Jan. 3, 2023.
Many knew Tigges after he appeared on national media outlets after the arrest. However, his fight began way before June 2021.
The Patriot Pub
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, the agritourism business owner sued then-Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam so that he could reopen his business.
For more than six months, he protested against the COVID-19 lockdown every Friday morning in front of the Loudoun County government building in Leesburg, Virginia.
From this experience, Tigges realized the importance of social gatherings and the traditional way of exchanging ideas: in-person. In April 2021, he founded the Patriot Pub—a weekly casual in-person meeting at his 24-acre farm in Hamilton, Virginia.
People in the lockdown protest group were the initial members, but attendance at the Pub quickly grew. He then began to invite different speakers. Attendance at events ranged from 50 to more than 200. During the process, the Pub became the birthplace of many strategies Loudoun County residents used in their fight against the local school board for parental rights.
Folks in nearby counties joined; some brought the Pub format to their communities.
Loudoun County earned the reputation of “ground zero” for parental rights battles across the country. The very issue propelled Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, to victory in November 2021, flipping the state red after eight years of being blue.
But after that, a dispute within the group threatened to unwind all of Tigges’s efforts.
Different factions had disparate views of Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman, a Republican. Tigges, and others, didn’t approve of the way the sheriff enforced Superintendent Scott Ziegler’s declaration of “unlawful assembly” at the June 2021 school board meeting, a declaration that Ziegler later admitted he didn’t have the authority to make.
They also weren’t happy with the sheriff’s arrest at the event of another resident, Scott Smith, for disorderly conduct. It was later revealed that Smith had attended the meeting discussing a pro-transgender policy because his daughter was sexually assaulted a month earlier by a teenage boy in a skirt in the bathroom of a Loudoun County public high school.
But the Republican members of the Loudoun County community wanted to reelect Chapman in 2023. To them, reelecting Chapman would prevent the replacement of the sheriff’s office by a county police department that would take orders from the Democrat-majority county supervisors. Hence, they insisted that Chapman did nothing wrong.
Others, including Tigges, didn’t want to cut Chapman slack just for being a Republican.
Eventually, the different opinions led to heated arguments at a March event hosted by the Pub. Some even walked out of the venue. As tensions rose that evening, Tigges stood his ground.
He said he got very angry and frustrated that some cared more about toeing the party line and couldn’t see the injustice in the sheriff’s office’s mishandling during the so-called unlawful assembly.
In the following days, the gap between different Loudoun County groups grew larger. They even hosted separate Republican congressional candidate debates at the same time on the same night. Those who endorsed Chapman stopped attending any Pub events.
“Why have I given up time and treasured up a bunch of arrogant, narcissistic politician people?” Tigges asked.
“Enough of this,” he told himself, feeling disheartened.
Going on Tour
When he told Patriot Pub members about a temporary closure for his summer vacation, some wondered where he was going and asked if he would consider visiting other parts of the country to share the Patriot Pub experience. Their friends in other states would be very interested in learning about that, they told Tigges.
He initially resisted the idea.
“That’s not what I consider a vacation,” Tigges told them.
Yet, “Second Chronicles chapter 7 verse 14 [of the Bible] smacked me in the face,” he said.
“I hadn’t been addressing this [issue] humbly. I’d been addressing this out of anger, towards what I considered [an] injustice,” Tigges told The Epoch Times. “I had to humble myself. And I needed to turn from my wicked ways. I needed to depend more on prayer than on my own action.”
Hence, he realized that he should view members’ suggestions as God’s voice. He knew these members weren’t after political power or recognition—they had good intentions.
Together, they named the summer tour the “Freedom Fire Tour.”
On July 20, he and Chris took off. After she returned home from southern California on Aug. 13, Tigges spent a week alone at the Zion National Park in Utah, then continued to Arizona, where Smith joined him on Aug. 19. The two traveled eastbound and arrived back in Virginia on Aug. 31.
During the journey, Tigges traveled 10,000 miles and visited 31 states in addition to Virginia. He and his companion were hosted by local groups in California, Texas, Illinois, Idaho, Arizona, and Oklahoma. In other states, he stayed with friends or friends of Patriot Pub members.
Through meeting with many groups and listening to the perspectives of others on the nation’s future direction, he became convinced that America is in the midst of a non-kinetic, spiritual war.
“We’re already in a revolution, called a civil war, if you will—a non-kinetic civil war where people are being taken out by doxxing and canceling, businesses being wiped out by COVID [lockdowns],” he said.
And thus, to him, faith is the fundamental solution, and political solutions are “at best temporary.”
At a beach barbecue in Santa Barbara, California, one of the events on the tour, Tigges asked, “Does anyone know the secret strategy that was used in Loudoun to have the effect they did on the election?”
He didn’t expect anyone to have the answer. As he was about to go on with his talk, he heard someone in the back say “humidity.”
“That’s funny,” Tigges said. “It’s hot in Virginia. But no, it wasn’t humidity.”
“No, humility,” the voice said.
“Oh, my goodness,” he thought. “That’s the right answer.”
That was the answer he came up with after reflecting on Loudoun County’s success following the Virginia gubernatorial election. He realized that the people who carried the momentum in Loudoun County’s fight were humble, willing to fight if they were fighting alone, and didn’t seek anything other than being true to themselves.
There was Tanner Cross, the teacher who spoke out against preferred pronouns because it’s against his Christian belief. He was suspended after protesting this issue during a school board meeting. He fought the suspension and got his job back.
There was also Shawntel Cooper, an African American and mother of two who broke out of her usual shy character at a school board meeting to criticize critical race theory (CRT)—a quasi-Marxist doctrine that views America as systematically racist—in Loudoun schools’ education system.
And then there was Xi Van Fleet, a Chinese American who doesn’t want to see the United States fall into the upheaval that she experienced during China’s Cultural Revolution, a communist campaign that almost wiped out the country’s traditional culture and beliefs. She also spoke at a school board meeting against CRT without knowing if anyone else would join her fight.
Tigges saw the same spirit all the way in Santa Barbara, which he called “one of the most ‘wokist’ towns in the country.” To his surprise, locals put out signs and flyers about his visit and even filmed his talk and broadcast it on the local TV station.
While he initially said, “I’m not going to California,” he ended up making three stops in the Golden State, thanks to a Pub member’s urging and connections.
“Believe it or not, of all the places I went to, California has the strongest Christians that have been filtered and the remnant there is in it to win it,” he told guests at the Patriot Pub on Sep. 8.
Loneliness and Fear
During his travels, Tigges also saw the loneliness and fear of people with conservative values.
In Chicago, Tigges and his wife had dinner with four other people, each from a different school district.
“In many cases, they were the only person going to the school board meeting,” Tigges said.
One woman managed to file a class action lawsuit against her local school board even though she couldn’t get the local community to show up at school board meetings to support her.
“But she was exhausted from it all,” Tigges said.
In Austin, Texas, Tigges met with a group of young conservatives in their late 20s and 30s. The fear they spoke of was emblematic of how many other conservatives felt, he said.
“All of them noted how their careers would probably end if they actually spoke truthfully about what they believe in their workplace or online,” he said.
As Tigges listened to the concerns of others, he reflected on himself. He was “activated” when he was finally about to run a business in Virginia and could enjoy life comfortably. But Northam’s March 2020 lockdown order threatened to take it all away.
On tour, he saw many people who were activated. And they were activated politically, just like how he reacted initially. But to Tigges, political actions, be it voting or a lawsuit, aren’t enough and won’t help overcome the fear of political persecution.
Something more fundamental than politics is called for, he said.
A Need to Rebuild Community
At the end of the tour, Jon and Chris Tigges concluded that the answer was a community rebuilt based on faith.
“What I found consistent in each community, just like [what] one pastor in Southern California shared, is there are more … people who think like we do than we would ever realize,” Chris Tigges told The Epoch Times. “And people want to know how to share their hearts and what they know is truly right from wrong. But they want to know how to do it in a way to still remain safe.
“I can understand that as a wife and a mom [who] literally voted once a year and raised six kids and thought that was enough. But it’s no longer enough. And I think America knows it.
“People have forgotten to be in community with one another and that the starting point is joining together with people that think alike, and it can’t happen unless you have a face-to-face conversation. Then, you don’t feel like you’re alone. And then God uses that little situation to grow something you would have never imagined. That’s what I think America needs to do: They need to rebuild the community.”
Jon Tigges said he witnessed on the tour that many dedicated Christians were “working together across denominational lines.” They saw the danger that the United States is in and that “caused theological differences to go away” as they strived for a common goal.
“There arose a generation that turned their back on God, and this country doesn’t believe it can fail,” he said. “This country is following a path of decadence that every other great nation followed and ended on.”
In his view, the only way to turn the tide is to tap into faith for strength.
A Message That Resonates
When Jon Tigges stopped in Texas, he met with Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas). He said a question Roy asked him repeatedly was: What’s a message that resonates with people? And what’s the answer? It couldn’t be another hearing or another piece of legislation, could it?
Tigges told Roy that the job of people in Washington was to provide protection.
“They are supposed to preserve our rights,” he said. “If you can convince people that you’re going to do that, [that] you are going to keep the FBI from busting people’s doors—it resonates.
“I believe from looking around … there are people in communities that are dying to actually activate and take control of their own communities. But they’re fearful of doing that and don’t know what to do. And they don’t feel someone has their back.”
Roy’s questions prompted Tigges to think further. He said many people’s first reaction was to get involved politically. He was the same. Hence, he made many efforts with lawsuits, protests, and votes. Those weren’t done in vain and generated some results.
And many, including him, put their hopes in sending representatives to Washington to make all the changes. But is that the answer?
A Self-Reliant Framework
When the couple traveled to Montana, Tigges’s home state, they talked about leaving Virginia and moving back. Together, they imagined a happy life in Montana. And as they chatted, Tigges examined his motivation.
“I began to realize that if we truly are fearless in Christ, we don’t have to worry about our location,” he said. “If the community stands firm, then the community can preserve itself. And if enough communities in an area stand firm around the same principles together, then the state will be okay.”
During the tour, he identified four pillars: faith, family, friends, and freedom. He said he put freedom at the bottom because he considered freedom to be a downstream effect, and he no longer wanted to rely on politicians alone as the solution.
“If we have enough people claiming the righteousness of God in their life and their families and their communities, we’re going to have righteous politicians that will focus on doing what God called the government to do, which is to protect people from the evil outside the borders and the evil inside the borders and to allow people to live freely,” he said.
And we don’t need politicians for faith, family, and friends, according to Tigges.
“My conviction is there’s so much we can do ourselves that we don’t give ourselves credit for,” he said. “So much that we can touch and control is right in front of us, but we don’t deal with it, starting with the man in the mirror.”
Along the Freedom Fire Tour, Tigges encouraged everyone he met to start local social gatherings to share ideas. The Loudoun County Patriot Pub began that way. The tour has collected so much goodwill that he’s working on setting up a core team to help replicate the Patriot Pub model across the nation. For this purpose, he set up a GiveSendGo campaign for donations and prayers.
Chris Tigges said her husband’s enthusiasm and hope resonated with the Americans he spoke to across the country.
“It gave all these communities such renewed hope,” she said.
She also said she worries about his safety now and then, “but more than anything, I’m just so proud of him.”
“And I want Americans to be encouraged to listen and act upon what he’s encouraging them with because we’re not giving up. We believe that it may be a while,” she said. “But we’ve got to continue to have that the America we love and hold so near and dear to our hearts, period.”