A appointee to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ new board of oversight, which controls Disney’s special tax district, called homosexuality “evil” last year and shared a baseless conspiracy theory that claims the tap water could make more people gay.
On Monday, the Republican governor named Ron Peri, a former Orlando-based pastor and CEO of The Gathering — a Christian ministry focused on men’s outreach — as one of five people who will now oversee the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body. which gave Disney unique powers in Central Florida for more than half a century.
DeSantis signed a bill in February that allowed him to replace the district’s existing board of directors — mostly Disney-related people — with a five-member body he handpicked. The move to remove power from Disney comes nearly a year after the company spoke out against a Florida bill — which DeSantis later signed into law — to restrict some classroom instruction on sexual orientation and sexuality. gender identity.
A CNN KFile review of Peri’s past comments found he frequently made derogatory remarks about the LGBTQ community.
“So why are there homosexuals today? There are a number of reasons, you know, that are given. Some will say the increase in estrogens in our societies. You know, there’s estrogen in the water in birth control pills. They can’t get it out,” Peri baselessly stated in a January 2022 Zoom chat, put later on YouTube. “Testosterone levels among men in America have globally declined by 50 points over the past 10 years. You know, and so, maybe that’s part of it.
“But the big part that I would suggest to you, based on what’s said here, is the removal of coercion,” he continued. “So our society provided the constraint. So what is a society’s responsibility to prevent people from doing evil? Well, you remove the constraints and then the bad happens.
Testosterone levels in men have fallen in recent decades, and researchers aren’t sure why, but the drop isn’t 50%, and there’s no evidence that a drop in testosterone affects sexual orientation. Likewise, there is no proof this estrogen in the water supply, for which birth control pills represent a statistically insignificant amount, affects sexual orientation. The claim that chemicals in tap water could make people gay has gained traction with conspiracy theorists over the years, including with fringe commentator Alex Jones, who said the chemicals in the water “made frogs homosexual”.
In the same discussion, Peri called homosexuality “shameful”, linking it to disease.
“There are a lot of unhealthy effects of a gay lifestyle,” Peri said. “There are diseases, but it goes beyond that.”
Peri also said LGBTQ people “have no interest in the future” as many don’t have children, and he called gay people “deviant”.
In one discussion, he linked homosexuality to the fall of the Roman Empire – a fringe historical belief sometimes pushed by some Christian activists.
“Homosexuality has been praised,” Peri said. “Today, LGBTQ is featured everywhere, even in children’s shows. And so finally the Romans had become weak.
Peri’s talks, which focused on the modern worldview through a biblical perspective, often touched on social topics. In other threads uploaded to YouTube, Peri said that “not so long ago being a mother was the pinnacle of being a woman,” and he compared abortion to genocides like the ‘Holocaust.
“It stunned me that you didn’t see a massive reaction from the black population to what is effectively genocide. And if you look to the right, you can see that in the history of the world, there were great killers. The Holocaust, 11 million people were killed. Six million Jews,” Peri said, pointing to a chart comparing abortion to genocide.
Peri and DeSantis did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Peri’s appointment to the board of oversight comes after a long-running battle between DeSantis and Disney over the Parental Rights in Education Act – which critics have called Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law prohibits schools from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and in older grades that do not meet yet-to-be-defined standards.
After Disney’s then-president spoke out against the bill last year, DeSantis stripped the company of its unique governance power within the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the tax district. special created more than half a century ago that effectively gave the entertainment giant control of what has grown to 25,000 acres around its Orlando-area theme parks.
On Monday, DeSantis changed course and signed a new bill that extends the life of the Reedy Creek Improvement District but gives the governor new powers over its future. The new law ousted the existing council, renamed it Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and allowed DeSantis to appoint all five members — one of whom was Peri.
This week, DeSantis told supporters that Disney’s opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Act was “just a mild annoyance” and that the motivation to effectively punish the company was in response to the fact that she would have injected “a lot of that sexuality into the programming of young children.” He suggested the new board could influence Disney’s business decisions by adding park discounts for Florida residents and even changing the company’s entertainment offerings.
“When you lose your way, you know, you have to have people who are going to tell you the truth, and so hopefully they can come back,” DeSantis said. “But I think all of those board members would love to see the kind of entertainment that all families can enjoy.”
Historically, the Reedy Creek Board of Directors oversaw a fire department, water systems, roads, and building inspections around Disney theme parks and could issue bonds and indebtedness for entertainment programs. long-term infrastructure. Florida Democratic lawmakers who opposed DeSantis’ takeover of the board have warned that a politically motivated body could wield that power over Disney.
“Are we going to see board members vetoing projects that are seen as going against any governor?” said State Representative Rita Harris during a floor debate on the proposal. “For example, Walt Disney just changed Splash Mountain. They made it Tiana’s (adventure) bayou. What if the governor didn’t like it? Would the board then be able to push a company to change its business model just so it doesn’t align (with) them?”
In addition to Peri, DeSantis also named to the board Martin Garcia, a Tampa lawyer whose private investment firm contributed $50,000 to the gubernatorial re-election campaign in 2022, and Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of the conservative organization Moms for Liberty and wife of Christian Ziegler, the new chairman of the Florida Republican Party.