The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit organization that seeks “to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism,” is calling on Florida governor Ron DeSantis to withdraw comments he made in a June 9 press conference that they say “paint the nonreligious in a deeply unfavorable light.”
DeSantis, who was holding a press conference in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, was celebrating his signing of six bills that will provide increased employment and educational benefits to veterans.
During his opening remarks, DeSantis made reference to the recent assassination attempt on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The attempt came after an uproar of protest in response to a leaked draft opinion that indicated the Supreme Court may overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right.
“They have some lunatic that was trying to assassinate Justice Kavanaugh,” DeSantis said. “And this is something that’s very, very troubling, because you got a lot of people who whipped this up, people like [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer, talking about [the Supreme Court] facing the whirlwind. They have lifetime appointments. What type of whirlwind are you talking about?”
“And I think there’s a lot of really, really crazy people out there, unfortunately, that really get consumed with ideology,” DeSantis continued. “These are people that don’t really have, I think, a religious foundation or any type of relationship with God, and so they turn to radical politics as kind of what they’re going to do.”
The FFRF took exception with DeSantis’ implication that being nonreligious is predictive of violent or societally subversive behavior, releasing a statement against the remarks.
“The Freedom From Religion Foundation is denouncing remarks by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that imply people who lack a ‘religious foundation’ are prone to criminal violence,” the statement said, going on to formally request that DeSantis “retract his misleading comments and apologize to his nonreligious constituents.”
In a letter attached to the statement, FFRF cited a study that found, “Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is deep and widespread. And within America, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont and Oregon.”
“These studies do not prove that religion causes all of society’s ills, but do reveal that Christianity, more faith or prayer are not a panacea,” the letter goes on to say. “If anything, they are actually counterproductive.”