‘Society Must be Rooted in the Truth’: DeSantis Unveils Robust Religious Liberty Agenda at Summit
As president of the United States, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) will rely on God, empower parents, protect religious liberty, and stand up to the government and corporate forces waging a war on Christians, the governor told the 2023 Pray Vote Stand Summit on Friday night.
“I don’t know how you could be a leader without having faith in God,” the 46th governor of Florida told the audience of conservative Christian leaders. It is “faith in God that gives you the strength to stand firm against the lies, against the deceit, against the opposition.”
“People ask me, ‘How do you become a good leader?’ Well, one of the first things you need to do is put on the full armor of God,” DeSantis told a capacity crowd inside Washington’s Omni Shoreham hotel.
Personal suffering brought him to rely on divine providence. After the candidate announced that doctors had diagnosed his wife, Casey DeSantis, with cancer in October 2021, “we received prayers from people all across the United States, and we were able to witness firsthand the power of prayer as that lifted her spirits and put her on the road to a full and complete recovery,” said DeSantis. “So, thank you.”
The governor said specialists designated Florida’s First Lady cancer-free last May.
Prayer has become increasingly important, because “we do have a spiritual decline in this country,” said DeSantis. Democrat-dominated states such as California imposed lockdowns in the name of fighting COVID-19 that closed churches and synagogues but left liquor stores and strip clubs open. Deaths of despair skyrocketed, as more than 100,000 Americans overdosed in a combination of open borders, lax drug enforcement, and isolation.
Rather than crack down on illegal border crossings, which broke historical records under President Joe Biden, “we see weaponized government going after parents who are going to a school board meeting or faith leaders who are engaging in pro-life activism.”
“We see the sense of becoming unmoored from our traditions, faith, and even common sense itself,” DeSantis continued. “Attempts have been made to wipe our Judeo-Christian religious symbols from our national heritage and national culture,” because liberal bureaucrats do not like competing narratives. “They want political leftism to be the established religion of this country,” he said. “The minute you try to bring [a Christian worldview] outside of that Sunday morning context, then the elites in our society are going to drop the hammer.”
But during this time of national decline, Americans must “be able to live their faith in all aspects of their life, not just on Sunday morning,” because “reviving the spirit of America is essential to helping reverse America’s decline. And this revival is going to begin in our religious institutions.”
Religious liberty has won recent Supreme Court cases involving Coach Joe Kennedy’s right to pray in public and the right of the Christian-owned firm 303 Creative to refrain from designing websites that violate the owner’s Christian view of marriage, he said. But “the fact that that even had to go to the U.S. Supreme Court shows us that religious liberty is not flourishing the way it should.”
“Your right to practice your faith is not something that’s given to you and simply tolerated by political elites. It is something that is endowed to you by the hand of Almighty God,” said DeSantis. “We must win the fight to restore religious freedom as the Founding Fathers of this country intended.”
DeSantis, the most significant challenger to former President Donald Trump in the polls, vowed to restore religious freedom through an ambitious agenda that mirrors his actions in Florida, which “stood strong as a citadel of freedom and a refuge of sanity.” He promised to name Supreme Court nominees who reflect the jurisprudence of Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr., “the two greatest justices on the court.”
“We are going to tear up all government regulations that force groups to choose between government funding and their faith. Instead, we’re going to actively incorporate the faith community into our administration,” he said. He touted the Hope Florida program, started by his wife Casey, which connects disabled people with jobs — a program he said had taken “6,200 mostly poor women who are trying to raise children off of government assistance entirely.”
DeSantis vowed to instate “universal school choice,” to end discrimination against religious schools and faith-based institutions in public funding, to repeal a federal law that bans clergy from endorsing candidates in elections, and to end the judicial punishment and persecution of people who put their Christian views into practice. Instead of divisive equity programs, “we’re going to create divisions of conscience and religious freedom in the Departments of Education, Labor, and [Health and Human Services] to protect religious liberty across all agencies of government,” he said.
“My Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute attacks on faith-based pregnancy crisis centers and pro-life activists, which the Biden administration is currently ignoring,” he said. His administration will begin “quickly dismissing these meritless lawsuits” and hold those who initiated them accountable. “We have also stood up to protect the culture of life by enacting the strongest pro-life protections in the modern history of Florida: The Heartbeat Protection Act.”
The crowd responded most heartily to DeSantis when he took on the transgender political agenda. DeSantis took pride in outlawing “the gruesome practice of giving minors puberty blockers and gender surgeries,” he said. “It is mutilation. It is wrong, and it has no place in a free and just society.”
DeSantis won a sustained standing ovation when he promised “to stand up to the biggest, baddest companies, like Disney,” he said. “We are not going to let these big companies run roughshod over the education of our children,” and “Republicans out there who side with companies like Disney are wrong.”
He added that he will clarify “whenever sex and gender appear in a government document, we refer to the only two sexes that actually exist.”
“We are also the first state to prevent teachers from forcing students to identify their pronouns. We’re not doing the pronoun Olympics in the state of Florida,” he quipped. “We have ensured that our bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms are safe places for our girls and for our women.”
Through a comprehensive attack on each facet of intersectionality, DeSantis promised to “leave the woke mind virus in the dustbin of history where it belongs, once and for all.”
DeSantis, who won a double-digit reelection in the state with America’s third-largest Jewish population, said he governed as “the nation’s most pro-Israel governor,” opening trade missions with Israel and opposing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. “America must always stand with the Jewish people,” DeSantis said.
“We led with purpose. We led with conviction, and we delivered unprecedented results,” he said. “What we’ve shown in Florida is that there’s a hunger for truth. People see the deceit that’s out there. They see lies told by the media and the Left. They know that we need to restore sanity to this society once and for all.”
“We cannot fly the white flag of surrender into the face of the hostile forces that are doing everything they can to upend our way of life. We must stand firm for the truth. We must fight back, and we must win in 2024,” he said.
“I will get the job done,” DeSantis vowed. “And with God’s help as your president, I will not let you down.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.