Central Florida faith leaders push back against Governor’s proposed protest regulations

ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida religious leaders say they’re teaming up to take a stand against legislation proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

The Governor’s proposal is aimed at cracking down on violent protests, and would stop funding for local governments that cut law enforcement budgets.

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If passed, the proposed “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” would mean harsher penalties for protesters, and no bail until an initial court appearance for those accused of participating in a violent protest.

There are added adjustments to penalties for damaging property and blocking roads.

James Morris, with Carter Tabernacle, and Father Charles Myers, with the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist, say they’re joining other faith leaders in speaking out against the proposal.

“This whole law and order rhetoric...it’s another way of keeping the voice down, especially for black and brown communities,” Father Charles says.

“We are building a coalition of clergy across the state of Florida,” Pastor Morris adds. “I know right now of 15 different groups that have already signed on.”

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Morris and Myers say their plan is to pressure legislators to join their effort and present an alternative to DeSantis’ proposal.

“I plan on talking to the Chief of OPD and Orange County to see if we can get them to discuss this issue with us.”

When asked, Orange County Sheriff John Mina responded with a statement he’s repeated when asked about the Governor’s proposal previously, saying, in part, “I would want to examine the exact language of the proposed legislation before addressing the specifics. I am in favor of any law that would hold to account anyone who commits violence against members of our community or law enforcement.”

In response to Mina’s statement, Father Charles said “If you’re going to look at the language of it, then invite the community to the table whose language it impacts the most.”

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Both Pastor Morris and Father Charles say they’re planning a formal announcement of their initiative for sometime next week.

Neither the Orlando Police Department nor the office of the Governor have responded to requests for comments on the matter.