By Dr. Kelli Criss and Dr. Eric Criss
The Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition held its 2020 VIP Policy Briefing on Thursday, January 30 at the Governors Club in Tallahassee. This briefing gathered faith leaders, legislators, our national and Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition leadership, and legal experts together for prayer and discussion. Below is a summary of the speakers and current legal and legislative issues relevant to Florida’s faith community.
State Representative Mel Ponder emphasized to the Policy Briefing attendees the influence of God upon our Founding Fathers and the miraculous documents which shape our Republic. He referred to the good work happening in the Florida legislature to protect life through HB 265 sponsored by Representative Erin Grall. HB 265 is parental consent legislation in the Florida House, requiring a physician to obtain notarized written consent of parent or legal guardian before inducing or performing termination of pregnancy of a minor.
He emphasized the value of the Florida Legislative Prayer Caucus in binding its members together in a unity which undergirds their commitment to God and to serving the faith community. At times, a bill cannot accomplish all the faith community desires, Representative Ponder, lamented; however, a bill that achieves a measure of the original goal is progress for which Representative Ponder feels immense gratitude toward God and toward our democratic system.
Representative Ponder encouraged all the attendees and the broader faith community to reach out to their respective representatives with encouragement and with a message of, “I am praying for you and the entire legislature.” He expressed a desire for the faith community to accentuate its shared values rather than being divided by arguments of doctrine or denominations. The faith community must continue the work of the Founding Fathers to ground our Republic in the gospel by electing godly leaders who will pass laws aligned with our faith.
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the national Faith & Freedom Coalition, stressed the importance of getting out the evangelical vote for conservative candidates who champion the faith community’s causes. Ralph informed the crowd that the Faith and Freedom Coalition will knock on an estimated 750,000 doors in Florida alone in an effort to get people of faith to the polls in 2020. Former Jacksonville Jaguar Greg Huntington spoke about the godly foundations of our Republic and opened our briefing with prayer. Huntington intends to work with Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition to advance the goal of getting people of faith registered and to the polls in November.
Kurt Kelly, CEO and President of the Florida Coalition for Children (FCC), explained the need for faith-based organizations to play a role in child welfare. For too many years, the public systems for child welfare have excluded faith-based organizations. Kurt shared the desire of the FCC to lock arms with the faith community to serve Florida’s children.
Robert J. Sniffen, founder and managing partner of the law firm, Sniffen and Spellman, PA. provided a legal update. His firm is defending the St. John’s County School District in the case, Adams vs The School Board of St. Johns County, Florida. This case concerns whether separating student bathrooms in K-12 schools on the basis of biological sex is permissible under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiff is a transgender child to whom the School Board will not grant access to the “gang style” or communal bathrooms designated for the gender the child has transitioned to. Robert explained that the legal counsel for the transgender child draws upon financial and legal resources from around the country and that his team of lawyers is undeterred and thoroughly committed to defending the School Board’s position.
The plaintiff won the 2017 case tried in the U.S. District Court of Middle District of Florida. In December 2019, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments and a decision is expected soon. Robert’s team believes the case is likely in line to reach the Supreme Court where the decision will impact the entire nation’s policies concerning communal bathroom access for transgender minors. He requested that the faith community pray for the outcome of the trial and his team.
Pam Olsen is the State Director of the Florida Prayer Caucus Network under the direction of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, working closely with the Congressional Prayer Caucus and the Florida Legislative Prayer Caucus. She leads prayer at the Florida State Capitol weekly and during session leads weekly prayer with legislators. She has led prayer at the Florida State Capitol for 25 years.
Pam shared with attendees the value of the Faith and Freedom Coalition for getting out the faith-based vote. She requested that attendees pray for our leaders and the upcoming election. Pam reiterated the strategic importance of Florida’s courts having become more conservative and its Governor and First Lady, Ron and Casey DeSantis, being people of faith. She wholeheartedly believes that the prayers, the involvement, and the votes of the faith community have impacted Florida.
Your prayers and support along with technologies and techniques employed by the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition are critical for getting out the faith-based vote in 2020. Offer your support for candidates whose policies uphold a Biblical worldview. Check out the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition’s website to find out how you can be involved today!