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DeSantis Forms National Faith and Family Coalition to Reach Evangelicals

Ron DeSantis’ low-key approach to his personal beliefs hasn’t stopped him from getting the endorsement of 70 faith leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — As Ron DeSantis wrapped up a 12-stop campaign tour this summer, dozens of pastors prayed with him backstage at a South Carolina convention center. He later closed out his campaign speech with a paraphrased verse from the Bible: “I will fight the good fight, I will finish the race, and I will keep the faith.”

Those religious undertones are central to his outreach to Christian evangelicals – a critical voting bloc in the early GOP nominating contests. But when it comes to his own Catholic faith, DeSantis is much more guarded. In fact, he has rarely mentioned it in any specific terms.


But keeping his personal beliefs private  hasn’t stopped him from launching his own national Faith and Family Coalition. Today, the DeSantis campaign announced the goal of the coalition is to spread DeSantis’ vision to put “God over government” and build support for the actions he plans to take as president.

More than 70 faith leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are joining the effort to support DeSantis as he aims to “defend religious freedom, allow people of faith to flourish, and advance the culture of life,” according to a press release from the campaign.

“A true leader knows that in times of trial, God must be at the center of our lives,” said Pastor Andrew Hemingway from New Hampshire. “During COVID, leftist bureaucrats closed churches and tried to keep us from worshiping, but Ron DeSantis stood against the current and defended religious liberty. That’s why I’m proud to support DeSantis for President and to join his National Faith and Family Coalition.”


Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, a conservative advocacy organization that hosted a rally for DeSantis’ gubernatorial reelection campaign last fall, says he doesn’t think DeSantis is the kind of guy who wears his religion on his sleeve. Burch contends that DeSantis’ policies are what really matters to voters – including his signature on a six-week abortion ban and laws prohibiting so-called “gender-affirming care” for Florida children.

“Perhaps a good Scripture reference that may describe him is, ‘By their fruits you shall know them,’” Burch said.

Growing up, DeSantis attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Dunedin, Florida, and according to his political memoir, he was expected at church every Sunday. The book is a rare instance where DeSantis speaks openly about tragedy and trials in his life. It’s the place where he gives the most revealing look at his faith.

“You start to question things that are unjust, like ‘Why did this have to happen?’” DeSantis wrote. “And you just have to have faith that there’s a plan in place, trust in God, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have a life without challenges and without heartbreak and that’s just a function of being human.”

In the book, DeSantis notes that his family is so Catholic that his aunt is a nun and his uncle a priest in an Ohio parish. At several campaign stops, DeSantis garnered laughs when sharing a story about when his uncle baptized his son Mason at the governor’s mansion.

The punchline of the story was that Ron and Casey collected water from the Sea of Galilee during a congressional trip to Israel. After the ceremony, the custodial staff at the governor’s mansion threw out the plastic bottle, unaware of its contents.

Before he became governor, Maria Sullivan, a supporter who lives in DeSantis’ former congressional district, says she saw the family regularly with three kids in tow at 7 am Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Ponte Vedra. Sullivan remembers attending the baptism of the gubernatorial couple’s daughter, Madison.

“He’s a very low-key man, not looking for attention, just there with his family,” Sullivan said.


On Friday, DeSantis will speak at the Family Research Council’s Pray, Vote, Stand Summit in Washington, D.C. For more than 15 years, the summit has served as a forum to help inform and mobilize evangelicals across America to vote according to their values. Speakers include former president Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Josh Hawley plus Republican presidential candidates Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy.

Even if DeSantis doesn’t share his personal faith like Tim Scott or Mike Pence, he can still appeal to evangelicals. Focusing on conservative Christians is a strategy DeSantis must get right to win the GOP nomination. While Trump is seen as less of a religious figure, he still commands the support of a significant share of the conservative Christian voter bloc.

“You don’t have to be Pat Robertson in order to win those votes because Trump isn’t,” said Michael Binder, a political scientist at the University of North Florida.

Bob Vander Plaats, head of The Family Leader and a sought-after evangelical endorsement in Iowa, told The Florida Standard he’s impressed with DeSantis and hopes to announce an endorsement of a candidate after Thanksgiving. “He’s doing the right things,” Vander Plaats said, referring to DeSantis’ tour of all 99 Iowa counties. “He’s basically showing that all of Iowa matters, not just some of Iowa matters.”

Invited to two smaller but significant events in Des Moines this weekend – FaithWins and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition – DeSantis has an opportunity to engage with the faith-based community in a more intimate setting, something Trump has shied away from.

John Stemberger, an influential evangelical leader in Florida, said he has not personally discussed the governor’s Catholic faith with him but has prayed over him before his inauguration. At its annual gala in May, Stemberger's Florida Family Policy Council gave DeSantis its highest award.

“So many times, we’ve seen somebody who says they have faith, but then their policy decisions don’t reflect what we believe would be the traditional values that come from that faith,” Stemberger said.


The following faith leaders have publicly joined DeSantis’ Faith and Family Coalition:


  • Dale Akkerman, Development Director at Timothy Christian School (Grundy)
  • Pastor Bryan Anderson, Tabernacle Baptist Church (Lyon)
  • Pastor Gary Axtell, Grace Baptist Church (Madison)
  • Kathleen Banowetz, Head of Prayer Team (Linn)
  • Pastor Joseph Brown, Marion Avenue Baptist Church (Washington)
  • Pastor David Bush, Fit for the King Ministry (Polk)
  • Pastor Mark Cannon, Hope Baptist Church (Scott)
  • Pastor Brad Cranston, Iowa Baptists for Biblical Values (Des Moines)
  • Pastor Rick David (Linn)
  • Pastor Mark Doland, Church of Christ (Tama)
  • Gwendy Doland, Youth and Women’s Small Group Leader at New Hope Christian Church (Tama)
  • Pastor & Representative Jon Dunwell (Jasper)
  • Pastor Kirk Evans, Indianola Church of Christ (Warren)
  • Pastor Lance Fricke, Triumphant Church (Buchanan)
  • Janice Fricke, Triumphant Church (Buchanan)
  • Evangelist Caleb Garraway, Remnant Ministries (Washington)
  • Senator Jesse Green, Bible Class Teacher at Trinity Lutheran (Boone)
  • Pastor Michael Griswold, Marion Avenue Baptist Church (Washington)
  • Minister Matthew Haynie, Ogden Church of Christ (Boone)
  • Pastor Jessten Heimer, Trinity Lutheran Church and School (Boone)
  • Pastor Jeremy Higgins, Calvary Community Church (Linn)
  • Brooke Higgins, Women’s Ministry Teacher at Calvary Community Church (Linn)
  • Pastor Abe Koehn, Marion Avenue Baptist Church (Washington)
  • Tom Law, Calvary Community Church (Linn)
  • Pastor Matt Magee, Oak Grove Church (Benton)
  • Pastor Ed Matthews, Bible Baptist Church (Wapello)
  • Pastor Harerimana Nshoreyingabo, Redeemed Fellowship Center (Polk)
  • Pastor Alfonso Perez, Miracle Life Family Church (Polk)
  • Pastor Marcial Perez, New Dawn Ministries (Polk)
  • Pastor Terry Pollard, Eastside Church of Nazarene (Polk)
  • Sean Sanford, Youth Leader and Small Group Leader (Linn)
  • Pastor Joyce Schmidt, St. Olaf Lutheran Church (Humboldt)
  • Pastor Scott Sokol (Hancock)
  • Pastor John Vermeer, Doon United Reformed Church (Lyon)
  • Matt Wells, Lay Leader at Marion Avenue Baptist Church (Washington)
  • Reverend Shane Wilson, Iglesia Espiritu y Verdad (Polk)

New Hampshire

  • Pastor Jim Anan, Elevate Church (Grafton)
  • Pastor Garry Hamilton, Tower Hill Church (Rockingham)
  • Pastor Andrew Hemingway, Hill Village Bible Church (Merrimack)
  • Jon Leslie, Men’s Ministry Lead, Deerfield Bible Church (Rockingham)
  • Representative Maureen Mooney, Catholics for DeSantis (Hillsborough)
  • Representative Jeanine Notter, Catholics for DeSantis (Hillsborough)
  • Pastor Steve Pauwels, Church of the King (Rockingham)
  • Canon & Representative Mark Pearson, Institute for Christian Renewal (Rockingham)
  • Pastor Todd Walker, Crossroads Church (Grafton)
  • Former State Representative Phyllis Woods, Catholics for DeSantis (Strafford)

South Carolina

  • Lin Bennett, Pro-Life Advocate (Charleston)
  • Connie Boswell-Smith, Faith Outreach Leader (Richland)
  • Kathy Bustos, Former President of the Women’s Club at Stella Marris Catholic Church (Charleston)
  • Pastor Scott Crede, Northside Church (Lexington)
  • Pastor Scott Davis, Calvary Baptist Church (Spartanburg)
  • Jackie Edgerton, Senior Director of Office Stewardship at Diocese of Charleston (Charleston)
  • Colin Edgerton, St. John the Baptist Latin Choir Member, Stella Marris Catholic Church (Charleston)
  • Lindsey Farmer, Teacher at Oakwood Christian School (Anderson)
  • Bill Hixon, Deacon at First Baptist Church of North Augusta (Aiken)
  • Pastor Michael Jones, Oakwood Baptist Church (Anderson)
  • Josh Kimbrell, Former Christian Radio Talk-Show Host (Spartanburg)
  • Kenneth Matesevac, Head Deacon at Colonial Hills Baptist Church (Greenville)
  • Donna McDowell, Family Foundations Leader at Grace United Methodist Church (Aiken)
  • Ken McDowell, Finance Committee at Grace United Methodist Church (Aiken)
  • Gregory Rankin, Pastor of Langston Baptist Church (Laurens)
  • Peter Rankin, Nursing Home Chaplain (Laurens)
  • Kari Joy Rankin, Event Coordinator for Rock of Ages Family Music (Laurens)
  • Pastor Derek Renshaw, Blythewood Baptist Church (Fairfield)
  • Pastor Darren Rood, Bellview Baptist Church (Laurens)
  • Isabel Rood, Ladies Director at Bellview Baptist Church (Laurens)
  • Reverend Tim Squire, Rantowles Baptist Church (Charleston)
  • Brenda Stewart, Founder of Upstate Pregnancy Center (Laurens)
  • Idell Koury, Sunday School Teacher at First Baptist North Spartanburg (Greenville)
  • Timothy Thompson, Church Leader at Lighthouse Baptist Church (Lexington)
  • Molly Watson, Teacher at Oakwood Christian School (Anderson)
  • John Weinbrenner, Christian Author (York)
  • Pastor Seth Wilkins, Grace Baptist Church (Orangeburg)
  • Pastor Austin Williams, First Baptist Church (Laurens)