Religion News Service reached out to Ascol to see if he intends to formally endorse DeSantis but did not immediately receive a reply.
Other Christian leaders, who are widely seen as conservative crusaders, have also expressed support for DeSantis actions as governor. Bishop Joseph Strickland, a favorite among right-wing Catholics who has railed against COVID vaccines and been personally chastised by Vatican officials, has tweeted praise for DeSantis on multiple occasions, such as when the governor signed into law a ban on instruction having to do with gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade.
More recently, Strickland, who oversees the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, celebrated DeSantis for pushing back on pandemic restrictions such as vaccine requirements at public schools, saying, “I pray (Texas) Governor Abbott and other good governors will follow your lead.”
Not that DeSantis’ style hasn’t run afoul of some conservative-leaning faith leaders. When Florida lawmakers passed a law earlier this year making it easier to sentence someone to death — a practice condemned by the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops urged lawmakers and the governor to oppose it. DeSantis signed the bill into law anyway. And his immigration policies have raised the ire of many Latino faith leaders in his home state.
It’s unclear whether DeSantis can convince evangelical surrogates to cross the rubicon between unofficial supporter to formal endorser the way Trump did in previous campaigns. That may prove difficult this go-round for both men: Texas Pastor Robert Jeffress, an evangelical leader who has long supported Trump, told Religion News Service in November that he doesn’t intend to throw his support behind anyone during the Republican primary.
But other evangelical leaders have simply held back on an official endorsement, leaving open the possibility of backing DeSantis. The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and longtime Trump adviser, told RNS on Friday he is “not endorsing yet,” although he is willing to serve as an adviser to candidates “to advance an agenda of life, religious liberty, and biblical justice for all.” Rodriguez has praised DeSantis but also been critical of some policies: In May, Rodriguez urged the governor to oppose an immigration bill that invalidates driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants in other states.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has vocally backed Trump for years, has also said he plans to avoiding endorsing any candidate during the primary season. But he did pause for a brief photo-op with DeSantis ahead of the governor’s appearance at the NRB conference earlier this week. He later tweeted out commendations that framed DeSantis as a fighter.
“I appreciate the Governor’s clear voice and that he takes a stand against the evil that is trying to overtake our culture,” Graham tweeted.
This article originally appeared here.