The pastor who delivered the invocation at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s (R) second inauguration has said that gay people should be put to death.
Tom Ascol — senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida — made his comment on Twitter while criticizing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). On Monday, Cruz issued a tweet criticizing Uganda’s new “Anti-Homosexuality Act,” a law that punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with death.
“We can string them up above a bridge so that the public can see the consequences of that kind of wickedness.”
Cruz’s tweet called the law “horrific & wrong,” adding, “Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination. ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse.”
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Ascol disagreed, writing on Tuesday, “Tell it to God, Ted.”
The pastor then cited Leviticus 20:13, the Old Testament verse that says, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Ascol asked, “Was this law God gave to His old covenant people ‘horrific and wrong’?”
Leviticus’ ancient Biblical laws also require the death penalty for anyone who practices fortune telling, curses their mother or father, accidentally kills someone else’s animal, or commits blasphemy. Other Old Testament laws demand death for anyone who charges interest on loans or works on Saturdays.
Most contemporary Christians don’t follow these ancient Biblical laws and say that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ made them obsolete. However, conservative Christians tend to cite Leviticus 20:13 as proof that God shares their hatred of LGBTQ+ people.
Two hours later, Ascol tweeted, “Amazing how many professing Christians, even self-designated ‘conservative’ ones, are embarrassed by God’s Word. Just quote some unpopular words of God & watch what happens. Many so-called Christians react the same way that unashamed unbelievers do. It’s a commentary.”
DeSantis has signed numerous laws punishing teachers who mention LGBTQ+ issues, school officials who implement for trans-inclusive policies, doctors who provide gender-affirming care, transgender people who use bathrooms matching their gender identity, and businesses that allow children to see drag queens.
Ascol has previously said that women who have abortions should be imprisoned for murder. He also helped author The Dallas Statement, a 2018 statement that referred to same-sex attraction as a “sinful, disordered affection” and same-sex marriage as against “God’s design.” The statement rejected both “gay Christians” and the idea of gender fluidity. It also called “intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory” inconsistent with “biblical teaching.”
U.S. evangelicals had a hand in creating Uganda’s law. The law has threatened the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ Ugandans. Police and civilians have harassed any people they suspect of being gay. Some LGBTQ+ Ugandans have fled their home country, afraid for their lives. The law is supported by conservative pundits, including transphobic Matt Walsh, his colleague Michael Knowles, Heritage Foundation fellow Delano Squires, and New York Post columnist Miranda Devine.
Religious conservatives have also praised Russia for its laws punishing LGBTQ+ people. In 2013, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) President Austin Ruse said Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws were a “good thing” that “most of the people in the United States” would support. In 2014, anti-LGBTQ+ evangelical leader Franklin Graham also defended the law.