DeSantis Receives Backlash for 2024 Presidential Campaign in Eternity Church

Gov. Ron DeSantis kicks off the 2024 presidential campaign in an Iowa church which causes controversy since this is a violation of federal law. DeSantis said his campaign kick-off event is "Our Great American Comeback."

Several hundred supporters jammed into Eternity Church in Clive, filling the few seats, and stood along the walls. When Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds welcomed DeSantis to the stage and as he took the podium while cheering masked the music.

DeSantis has visited Iowa frequently for several months, despite this being his first visit as an official presidential contender. He compared Iowa's political trajectory to Florida's throughout his address, praising Reynolds and the Republican-led legislature in Iowa.

However, Clive's Eternity Church is a non-profit institution, which is subject to a 1954 amendment that Lyndon Johnson, a U.S. senator at the time, sponsored. It states that churches and charities are "prohibited by the terms of their exemption from participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office."

Church's pastor, Jesse Newman, tweeted, "Hillary spoke @ churches' AND ." Biden spoke @ churches. They all use churches as venues." Then he tweeted about DeSantis' campaign saying, "They're just using our venue! So haters - be consistent!"

Newman tweeted last week that "[The] Johnson amendment DOES NOT stop Pastors from talking politics. And if it did, I would ignore it and preach the whole truth anyway! Our Faith MUST influence our Politics!"

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DeSantis Kick-Off Event Speech

"The tired dogmas of the past are inadequate for a vibrant future. We must look forward, not look backwards," DeSantis said, according to the Des Moines Register, during his first public appearance as a presidential candidate. "We must have the courage to lead, and we must have the strength to win, because the stakes couldn't be higher."

Unlike many other presidential candidates, DeSantis didn't need to get to know the people of Iowa. His eagerly awaited run for president comes after serving two notable terms as governor of Florida, a state that has recently set the bar for Republican policymaking. 

Instead of introducing himself, he gave a long, thorough speech focusing on policy issues. He emphasized the several laws he had successfully passed and harshly criticized President Joe Biden's policies on the economy and the border with Mexico. DeSantis regularly compared Florida's conservative laws to those in Iowa, a state that has either considered or adopted many of them, throughout his speech.

What Happened During the Church Campaign

Newman approached a podium adorned with the phrase "DeSantis for President" at the forefront. He then led the gathering in a prayer dedicated to the Florida governor's presidential aspirations.

"As he upholds righteousness and faces the relentless attacks from those with malicious intentions," Newman said, according to the Daily Beast, "I pray that neither he nor his family, his campaign, nor his commitment to truth will be affected."

When Newman concluded his prayer, he said, "Can someone say 'Amen'?" He received a loud "Amen" response from the crowd and individuals holding campaign signs.

Meanwhile, Reynolds praised DeSantis for supporting a law that forbids most abortions after six weeks. She exclaimed, her voice muffled by the crowd's thunderous applause, "It's the same bill that I took pride in enacting into law back in 2018." The Iowa Supreme Court is considering whether to lift a permanent injunction on the statute, allowing for its enforcement.

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