Ironically, in signing the measure, DeSantis said, “We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.” But DeSantis’ record on religious indoctrination in the public schools includes signing HB 529 into law last year, which mandates public K-12 teachers set aside one or two minutes for silent reflection. Bill sponsors scrubbed out the explicit religious agenda from the record. When DeSantis signed the bill, he proclaimed, “The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful, I’m sorry, our Founding Fathers did not believe that.”
Last June, DeSantis even vowed that he would put on the “full armor of God.” He told a religious audience, “You will face flaming arrows, but take up the shield of faith and fight on.” He added: “People need to be taught why America was founded, what the principles that made our country unique were. They need to be taught that our rights do not come from government; they come from God.”
In an earlier statement during Florida’s 2019 National Day of Prayer observance at the state Capitol, DeSantis remarked: “The biggest part of the revolution in our country was the idea that our rights are God-given – not given by government . . . So when we’re talking about prayer, whether you’re doing it at the start of a legislative session, whether when you take an oath of office you’re saying, ‘So help me God,’ you’re doing that with the recognition that, ultimately, what we’re doing here on Earth is hopefully doing God’s will.”
He has used his gubernatorial platforms, including Twitter, to promote religion, such as this Easter 2019 message: “Today, my family and I observe Good Friday with our Christian friends around the world and commemorate the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a solemn day as we remember the suffering Jesus went through on the cross before we celebrate this Easter Sunday.”
His religiously motivated anti-LGBTQ rights record is clear, such as when he not only signed into law a discriminatory bill to ban transgender girls from school sports last year, also turned it into a religious photo-op. DeSantis is on the cusp of signing into a law legislation banning abortion at 15 weeks of gestation, which provides no exception for rape, incest or human trafficking.
More generally, DeSantis’ record of “saying God” and seeking to unite religion and government includes:
— Offering public school students only “thoughts and prayers” as a member of Congress in the wake of the 2018 Parkland shooting.
— Fighting throughout the pandemic masking, vaccination mandates and basically any science promoted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom he has continuously attacked in the name of religious liberty, including publicly at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to the Majority conference. He has even recently called to imprison the good doctor. From the beginning of the pandemic, DeSantis exempted church congregations from prohibitions on large gatherings. When he finally adopted pandemic social distancing, and discouraged church-goers from gathering, he added, “Please keep God close but please keep Covid-19 away.” DeSantis, in opposing masking in public schools, even set up a neo-voucher program to reward Covid superspreaders. He ignored the omicron surge that shattered new Covid records in his state, but acquired 15,000 doses of Regeneron, considered no better than a placebo in treating Covid-19. Even Donald Trump publicly admitted to getting a booster shot, but DeSantis has refused to say. He signed a law last May 2021 actually instituting fines for businesses requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination.
“While seeking to stigmatize and persecute LGBTQ students in public schools, his de facto gubernatorial motto seems to be ‘Do Say God,’” asserts Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “He seems not to realize the United States has a godless Constitution, and he took an oath of office to uphold our secular government.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 36,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,700 members and the Central Florida Freethought Community chapter in Florida. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.