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DeSantis on role of faith in his campaign

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(The Center Square) – On a call with pastors from across America on Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shared how his faith guides his life, his leadership and his campaign for president.

The call was organized by Chad Connelly, who founded Faith Wins, an organization that “maximizes Christian evangelical influence in the public arena at every level.” The group doesn’t endorse candidates but does “work hard to put pastors and faith leaders across America in every state in front of people like Gov. Ron DeSantis,” he said.

Connelly said DeSantis is “one of the greatest governors in America” who defended churches during COVID-era lockdowns when pastors who fought them faced crippling fines and jail time in states like California. Many pastors on the call “put up with quite the tyranny from local and state and county officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t put up with it. He stood by not only the First Amendment but common sense,” Connelly said.

Faith Wins-affiliated pastors in Iowa have been meeting with DeSantis and other Republican candidates for months ahead of its Jan. 15 caucus. Pastors have also been meeting with candidates in other battleground states as former President Donald Trump is dominating in the polls.

DeSantis said the primary season is “a time for choosing for this country, time for choosing for the Republican Party, but also a time for choosing for America. Normally when you’re competing in an Iowa Caucus, it’s a conservative electorate. It’s usually all the candidates are running as conservatives, and you got usually five or six bunched up all trying to do that. That’s not really what we see this year.”

Despite the polls, DeSantis said, “Donald Trump has moved left on a lot of different issues, whether it’s rejecting the sanctity of life or indulging in some of the gender madness and ideology. … I’m the conservative choice. I’m the one that represents the values here of the people of Iowa, but I think beyond in so many other places throughout this country.”

He said what guides his perspective and approach to life is his faith. “I have a foundation that guides me as a leader with faith in God. … I don’t think I would’ve been able to fight the fights with COVID or against Disney unless I had that foundation, unless I had that full armor of God put on me, which I do.” He’s referring to the Biblical teaching in Ephesians 6:10-18.

DeSantis also said, “when you’re somebody that’s got a foundation of faith, you understand it’s not my truth or your truth or his truth. There is such a thing as the truth, and we need to start to get in line with the truth in this country.”

He said one way truth is being distorted relates to the origin of rights. “Our country was founded on the idea that our rights come from God, not from the government. Our rights under the Declaration of Independence begin with the right to life itself,” he said.

This belief guides policy, saying “we have an obligation, like we’ve done in Florida, to stand for the sanctity of life. Those who say that it is somehow a terrible thing to provide pro-life protections, that is not consistent with the truth.”

Another way truth is being distorted relates to religious liberty, he said. “Religious liberty is not being honored in this country the way our founding fathers intended. When the founders created this country, the norm had been religious ‘toleration’ where you would have elites determine what the contours of free exercise of religion were. People could exercise their religion, but if it conflicted with elites and government, a lot of time the elites would take precedent. And our founders rejected that.

“They said that religious liberty comes from God. It’s a gift from God and government cannot abridge the free exercise of religion. But we’re in a situation now as a country where somebody like Coach [Joseph] Kennedy in Washington state says a prayer at midfield after a high school football game, and he loses his job as a result of doing that. He goes all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and he wins a six to three decision. The fact that that even went to court shows you that religious liberty is not being honored.”

DeSantis also said those opposing religious liberty want to impose their own secular version of religion on everyone else. “They’re really the ones that want to establish a religion,” he said. “They want to establish secular leftism as a religion, … to return us to pre-constitutional days where we’re back in an era of just tolerating religion. [When toleration meant] ‘you can go to church on Sunday, you can say your peace, you can worship, but don’t bring that … out into the rest of the world.’ They don’t want you to be able to live your faith.”

If elected president, he said, “we’ve got a lot of work to ensure that we restore not just religious liberty in this country but create a culture where religion can flourish once again.”

He pointed to Florida as the model as “what happens when you stand up for the truth.” He also described how under his leadership, Florida became a solid Republican majority. “We took a state that had been evenly divided politically and we won 60-40 in 2022. No one thought that that was possible even just a few years ago,” he said.

“I think there’s a hunger for truth. I think people want a restoration of sanity and normalcy into our culture, society, and governance, and I’m a guy that would be able to deliver that.”

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