The Reporter (Vacaville)
Trump vs. DeSantis: Florida pastors mull issues
DORAL, FLORIDA >> Several of Florida's conservative faith leaders have the ear of two early frontrunners for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — former President Donald Trump, who lives in Palm Beach, and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The clergy's top political priorities are thus likely to resonate in the national campaign for the religious vote, even as both men's agendas are still being weighed from the pulpit.
The faith leaders' key issues include education, especially about gender and sexuality, and immigration, a particularly relevant matter in Florida, which is a destination for hundreds of thousands of newcomers and home to politically powerful Latino diasporas.
Trump made reducing illegal immigration a strong focus of his previous campaigns, often with strident rhetoric, and has discussed building on his legacy in a second term. DeSantis, who isn't yet a candidate but is widely expected to run, has taken a more careful approach with immigration developments in Florida, while spotlighting issues related to schools and family.
Several pastors, particularly in heavily Latino South Florida, argue for reforming immigration policy. They want a more orderly process at a time of historically high illegal border crossings, but also more help to regularize and integrate undocumented migrants who are contributing economically and socially in United States communities.
The faith leaders' top priority, however, is defending their congregations, and youth in general, from what they see as efforts to impose — through public education — concepts of marriage, family and identity that run against their values.
Some LGBTQ advocates, teachers unions, and others argue that the issue of “parental rights” is being used to inject conservative politics into public schools.
But for pastors like Frank López of Jesus Worship Center in Doral, a Miami suburb, exposing children to certain types of sexually explicit materials in schools without their parents' knowledge is a form of political indoctrination that “brings conflict to a family.”