The mysterious Catholic faith of Ron DeSantis

ron desantis

Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to enter the Republican presidential contest this week, during an online conversation with billionaire entrepreneur and Twitter owner Elon Musk, NBC News has reported.

Supporters of Mr DeSantis believe the two-term Florida governor offers an opportunity to nominate a conservative who does not carry the same baggage as his onetime ally and chief rival, former President Donald Trump.

Mr DeSantis has been a vocal proponent of issues important to cultural conservatives, supporting measures that restrict the teaching of “sexual orientation or gender identity” in schools and taking on corporations, including Disney, for their perceived support of progressive causes.

Part of Mr DeSantis’s strategy is the courting of evangelical Christians, whose support helped propel Mr Trump to the White House in 2016.

But as far as his own religious beliefs go, Mr DeSantis has offered few clues thus far, instead relying on broad intonations about the importance of faith to him and his family.

On Monday, Mr DeSantis delivered an address to the National Religious Broadcasters’ International Christian Media Convention in Orlando.

In that speech, Mr DeSantis said that the federal government is targeting religious Americans, citing a leaked memo from the F.B.I. that critics say proves that some Catholics have been scrutinized for their religious beliefs.

During his address, Mr DeSantis invoked a phrase he has used repeatedly, stating, “Put on the full armour of God…and don’t ever, ever back down.”

Mr DeSantis was raised Catholic, attended Mass as a child and was a student at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Dunedin, Florida.

He is the nephew of a Catholic priest and also the nephew of a Catholic sister, both residing in Ohio and a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center noting the religious affiliation of each member of Congress stated that Mr DeSantis was a Roman Catholic. (A representative for the religious order that Mr DeSantis’s aunt belongs to declined to comment for this story, and his uncle did not return an email from America.)

But Mr DeSantis and his wife, Casey, rarely discuss the particularities of their religious beliefs in public, and media reports about Mr DeSantis vary in how they describe Mr DeSantis’s faith.

A story in the Miami Herald last year described Mr DeSantis as having been “raised Catholic,” while an editorial in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel called him simply “a Catholic.”

A New York Post profile by Piers Morgan published earlier this year went further, describing Mr DeSantis as “a Catholic who prays every day,” while the magazine Crisis published an essay that called the governor “a practising Catholic, by all accounts,” though the piece did not provide further insight. (The author, Darrick Taylor, added, “DeSantis doesn’t appear to have revealed much about how he practices his faith while in office.”)

The publication Insider called Mr DeSantis “a practising Catholic who has positioned himself as a defender of the Christian faith.”

In response to an email from America asking how Mr DeSantis describes his faith, a press secretary for the governor provided a link to a May 22 interview with podcast host Jenna Ellis.

Mr DeSantis spoke about his “faith” in that interview, but he did not identify a particular religious affiliation. (A follow-up email to his office seeking clarification was not answered.)

When asked by Ms Ellis about his faith, Mr DeSantis said, “Faith is just the foundation of my life.

“It’s how my wife and I lead our kids and our family. It provides me [with] the foundation necessary to be a leader in civil government and civil society.”

While Mr DeSantis does not often discuss the specifics of his religious beliefs, he has said that faith has been a constant in his life and that it has helped him through difficult moments.

When Mr DeSantis’s wife, Casey, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, “we immediately turned to prayer,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this year. “I got faith in the big guy upstairs.” Continue reading

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