Dear Gov. DeSantis: Governor, in your book “The Courage To Be Free,” you fan the mantra that “Freedom is worth fighting for.” I agree with you, as I’m sure many Floridians do.
So, why are your Republican-backed proposals in such flagrant violation of that mantra, by taking away basic freedoms for individuals to decide for themselves?
Why do you support passing a law that takes away freedom of the press? As an attorney, you should know such a proposal is unlawful and in direct conflict with a landmark Supreme Court decision (New York Times v. Sullivan) and will not stand up to a guaranteed legal challenge.
Why are you pressuring the Republican-dominated Legislature to make it illegal to have any programs of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the university system? There are full expectations that next year, you and your Republican colleagues will go after corporations with attempts to prohibit even the private sector from having DEI programs.
Then, as part of the race-related theme of your agenda, you are now policing the teaching of African American studies that are historically true but might make someone feel “uncomfortable”?
Last year, you introduced the effort to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in schools when, in fact, it was never being taught in the public school system.
To further compound this attack on history, your own Department of Education, which I believe has lately become a department of propaganda, is considering a new history book that has been edited and, while teaching the story of Rosa Parks, cannot mention she was moved to the back of the bus because she was Black.
Further, this sanitized version of American history will not discuss the role that Ms. Parks played in desegregation efforts. This assault on Black history raises the question as to how the Emmett Till story will be allowed to be taught, if at all. Will your Department of Education again whitewash history and suggest that Till wasn’t mutilated and killed by a white lynch mob, relegating this story to a mere footnote in African American history?
Do you think it’s a freedom worth fighting for when you push for a six-week limit for legal abortions, or even something so personal as to disallow a young girl from discussing her menstrual cycles with her teacher?
Is it a freedom worth fighting for when legislation you support will deploy the police powers of the state to take transgender children away from their parents if they make a personal decision to use hormone blockers as treatment?
Today, even though federal policy is only to allow, and not mandate, private investment corporations to consider ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles when making investment decisions, is it good public policy for your administration to penalize those private investment corporations if they follow such ESG principles?
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For one who claims to be a conservative, why are you so hellbent on liberally invoking the police powers of the state to punish people?
While these issues look like they could be your platform for a presidential bid, might I be so bold as to suggest that you are going way too far when it comes to taking away so many personal and corporate rights. It’s not too late to embrace true conservatism and let us have the “courage to be free” by making our own decisions.
I’m confident the vast majority of Floridians — and not to exclude voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond — will cling to their rights, and will find it detestable that any governor would use his powers to subjugate them with political whim and ambition.
You, as an elected official, do not have the authority to disarm citizens of their rights, as each one of us is allowed to make well-informed wrong decisions (or ill-informed right decisions). That is our right, and not your right to take them away.
Remember the words of John Stuart Mill: “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it.”
Now that is a freedom worth fighting for.
Dick Batchelor is an Orlando business consultant and former Florida legislator. He is a Democrat.