Holy Hell: DeSantis’ Pastor Buddy Tweeted WHAT?

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Bronwyn Opossum/Twitter
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Bronwyn Opossum/Twitter

Even the odious Sen. Ted Cruz expressed outrage at Uganda’s draconian new anti-LBGTQ statutes.

“This Uganda law is horrific & wrong,” the Texas Republican tweeted on May 2. “Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination. ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse.”

But Cruz’s rare moment of moral truth was immediately challenged by the same pastor who delivered the invocation at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second inauguration.

“Tell it to God, Ted,” Tom Ascol of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, tweeted in reply.

Ascol, who was a close second in a runoff election for president of the Southern Baptist Convention last year, proceeded to cite scripture:

"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. —Leviticus 20:13”

He added, “Was this law God gave to His old covenant people ‘horrific and wrong’?”

Cruz did not reply to Ascol’s tweet, which certainly seemed to suggest that the execution of gay people had a biblical blessing. But a commenter said that analysis was “missing the point” and that Ascol was simply “challenging the standards of Cruz” and asking, “Where does Cruz derive his standards?”

Ascol tweeted in reply: “You are exactly right. Some people don't read carefully. Others, evidently, don't reason well. Thanks for clarifying & accurately expressing what I *actually* wrote.”

But even on careful reading, most reasonable people would assume Ascol was suggesting that Uganda’s anti-gay law is not intrinsically “horrific and wrong.”

Ascol, who did not respond to a Daily Beast request for comment, has taken a similarly extreme position before.

The senior cleric at Grace Baptist in Cape Coral has repeatedly called for homicide charges against any woman who has an abortion for whatever reason. He has compared choosing to terminate a pregnancy to retaining a killer for hire.

“It’s like saying if I don’t murder someone, but I just contracted a murderer to murder someone, I’m not culpable,” Ascol said on a Christian radio show in 2022.

By that standard, DeSantis’ prohibition against abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy would be six weeks too woke. Nevertheless, Ascol has made it clear that he much prefers DeSantis to Donald Trump.

“I don’t think President Trump is a principled man,” Ascol has said, avoiding far-right political heresy by quickly adding, “I think he was a great president.”

DeSantis, Ascol says, “seems to be a man of sincere faith.” In his opening prayer at DeSantis’ second inauguration, Ascol described the governor as anointed by the Almighty.

“God has blessed the state of Florida by placing him in this office as His servant for our good,” he declared.

Such an endorsement from a prominent ultra-conservative pastor is heaven-sent for a would-be GOP nominee for president when 35 percent of Republicans are white evangelical Christians.

More than 70 percent of the evangelicals voted for Trump in 2020. And a remarkable number of the supposed faithful have so far stuck by this mendacious, thrice-married serial adulterer who is under indictment for allegedly paying hush money to a porn star.

In choosing DeSantis over Trump, Ascol is essentially telling them that the Anointed One whom God made governor of Florida should now become the next president of the United States. A critical number of evangelicals may follow the pastor as it becomes ever more clear that Trump is devoid of any principles at all, harboring contempt for everyone and loyalty to none

But some more moderate voters could be scared away by DeSantis’ association with a pastor who at least appeared to tweet scriptural support for executing gays and who unequivocally equates abortion with contract murder.

Did you try telling that to God, Tom?


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