WEST PALM BEACH – On the first full day of Hanukkah, religious leaders from various faiths in Palm Beach County gathered to push back Governor Ron DeSantis over controversial election and public protest laws.
On the steps of the Tabernacle Baptist Missionary Church in West Palm Beach on Monday, the multi-faith group challenged the governor over what they called the âthree Vsâ – voter opposition, voting restrictions and the approval of vigilantes.
âWe believe that when our constitutional and civil rights are violated, we have violated the very essence of who we are as a people,â said Rev. JR Thicklin, president of the Palm Beach County Clergy Alliance. “Too many lives, too many sacrifices have been made for these things to be undone or attacked in any way.”
During a half-hour rally, the group of about 15 clergyprayed, sang and talked about what they said were DeSantis’ politically motivated voter suppression laws, as well as what they called COVID-19 disinformation campaigns and the overwhelming expansion of the rights of the former Florida “Stand Your Ground” amendment.
Thicklin said he hosted the event to ask the governor to make changes to recent laws passed by the Republicans-led Florida legislature that benefit a few rather than many.
âWe cannot be ruled by someone who only looks at their future,â Thicklin said. “We must be ruled by someone who understands that he is the governor of everyone.”
The rally took place less than a month after DeSantis announced at event in West Palm Beach that he would form a state office to investigate and prosecute electoral crimes – even after the governor this year touted the success and integrity of the 2020 general election in Florida.
When we talk about SB 90, a state law passed in May that, according to voting rights organizations, is among the strictest levels in the country, Pastor Ray Whitely, an organizer of Faith in Florida, Speech of Malcom X in 1964, “The ballot or the ball”.
“A community with a suppressed voice is dangerous for itself and for those around it,” he said of the importance for black Americans to have political power and control over their communities. .
Whether it’s limiting the number of ballot boxes and the hours they operate, or banning places of worship from collecting or depositing mail-in ballots on behalf of the elderly, sick or immobile, all of this is just “jabberwocky” on top of nothing more than removing voters, Whitely said.
And no voice or vote, especially those of people of color who have been marginalized for too long, will be removed without a fight, Whitely warned.
âWe mobilize, we educate and we empower those around us,â he said. âWe train pastors to engage in political action. We are united against faith, racial and gender lines to send a powerful message that we refuse to remain silent as the selfish agendas of others affect the lives and quality of life of the little ones, the lost and the left – for-account.
Minister Greta Britt, founder of United Believers of Delray Beach, called on DeSantis to pass laws prohibiting private employers and schools from requiring vaccines or masks.
âThe governor’s package is politically motivated and dangerous for public health and constitutes outright disinformation,â she said. âThere is no human security or no respect for life in these Florida bills. No matter what you think about getting vaccinated or not, we need to be aware of our neighbor and not just think of ourselves. “
A former mayor of Riviera Beach, Bishop Thomas Masters, who is also a pastor at the Baptist Missionary Church of New Macedonia, agreed.
âI can tell you that 99% of the funerals I have done that were related to COVID are people who have not been vaccinated,â he said.
Erick Evans Sr., senior pastor at Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church, aimed HB 1, or what is commonly referred to as the riot bill.
“It is cold language that allows an individual to determine whether another individual is protesting peacefully or is moving,” Evans said. “It is the same devious language that allowed Kyle Rittenhouse to kill two protesters and injure another and be found not guilty of any charges.”
While Monday’s rally was peaceful, his message came from a place of force, said Rabbi Barry Silver of Congregation L’Dor Va’Dor in Boynton Beach.
âWe have a message to anyone who tries to deny Americans the right to vote, especially minorities,â he said, pointing to a warning written on the stairs leading to the church doors. âIt’s written right there: watch your steps. We fight back and we don’t take it while lying down. ”
As strong as DeSantis thinks he is, Silver said, he is no match for Floridians willing to stand up for what’s right.
“We are here to fight a disease, a disease, a pandemic – the pandemic of arrogance, ignorance and, worst of all, the pandemic of indifference that allows all of this to happen,” he said. declared.
But there is hope, he said, if good people come together to shed light on the darkness.
âWe have the vaccine against all of these viruses. It’s called love. He conquers hatred. This is called action. He triumphs over indifference.