FFRF on April 27 placed a timely digital message on a billboard in Melbourne, Fla.: “Science works! Please stay home.”
The large billboard was on Interstate 95 at Pineda Causeway, Melbourne.
The message is the brainchild of a lifetime member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Dwayne Free, who lives in Melbourne and was prompted to take action by the intransigence of Florida’s governor.
“I did this in response to Gov. [Ron] DeSantis exempting churches from following social distancing requirements which endangers ALL of us. It is absolutely unconstitutional to force companies out of business and allow churches to continue theirs,” says Free, a businessman.
FFRF had previously written DeSantis a firm letter, objecting to his reckless endangerment of health and life by explicitly exempting churches and religious gatherings from his very belated stay-at-home order. FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote the governor on behalf of FFRF’s 33,000 nonreligious members, including the 1,600 members in Florida (as well as a central Florida chapter).
DeSantis specifically did not apply his social distancing order to those “attending religious services.” What is particularly egregious about his actions, avers FFRF, is the fact that this exemption “shall supercede” measures taken by local officials. DeSantis’ order appeared to be crafted to propitiate his evangelical religious base, who objected to the lawful arrest of a preacher in Hillsborough County for flouting orders. The notorious Rev. Rodney Howard-Browne called the pandemic a “phantom plague” and claimed 13 machines in his church would kill the virus. The governor’s order apparently allowed him to continue to endanger his parishioners and the public by holding church services.
FFRF has noted that Florida already regularly limits worship gatherings that jeopardize public health. It called the exemption “unconstitutional and deadly.” The organization heartily welcomes the initiative of its member to remind his fellow Floridians to follow the dictates of science and common sense, instead of religion and superstition.