ATLANTA—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that the Left’s attacks on religious freedom and parental rights represent an attempt to impose its pseudo-religious “orthodoxy” on society.

“They have an orthodoxy on the Left that they want to impose on society, it’s basically their religion,” DeSantis, a leading Republican candidate for president in 2024, said at The Gathering, an event at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead hosted by radio host Erick Erickson. “It’s not a faith in God, per se, it’s a faith in the leftist ideology.”

DeSantis, who often polls second behind former President Donald Trump in the GOP primary, had responded to Erickson’s question about how parents demanding a say in their kids’ own education “became the enemy.”

“Whatever your rights are, they think they should yield if there’s a conflict between them pursuing an agenda and you being a parent,” the governor said.

He warned that the Left treats religious liberty the same way.

DeSantis mentioned the case of coach Joe Kennedy, who lost his job because he prayed on the football field. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld his religious freedom and restored him to his position, but the governor said the case never should have made it there in the first place.

“The fact that that’s even getting to the Supreme Court tells you that we’re not strong on religious liberty,” he said.

“Your right to practice your faith, and not just Christians but also as Jews and others, they think that it stops the minute it impinges on their agenda,” he warned. “That’s how you can have a case like 303 Creative” v. Elenis, a Supreme Court case focused on free speech. In that case, the court defended the free speech rights of a web designer who wanted to make websites to celebrate weddings but would have been forced by Colorado law to make websites for same-sex “weddings,” as well. The court ruled that the state law involved compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment.

“Do you think for a minute that if there was conservative compelled speech that those three justices would have dissented? No way,” DeSantis said.

He warned that the Left treats rights like religious freedom “less as a matter of God-given right and more something that the elites are allowing you to do and are tolerating” until it conflicts with their agenda.

“The family and faith are the building blocks of society and those are the two areas that they’re really waging an assault against right now,” DeSantis said.

He also condemned the weaponization of the FBI, the Department of Justice, and other agencies, noting that the Richmond FBI office targeted certain traditional Roman Catholics.

“The Founders would have predicted that this would happen,” DeSantis said. He noted that the Founders created a system of checks and balances to prevent one branch of government from obtaining unchecked power. He said the growth of the administrative state has allowed these agencies to weaponize law enforcement against conservatives.

“All Republican presidents in our lifetime have accepted the canard that the FBI and DOJ are ‘independent,’” DeSantis said. “They are not independent agencies. They are executive branch agencies that report to the president of the United States.”

He noted that the administrative state has been imposing its will on the people, and said, “It’s time we the people impose our will on it for a change.”

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