Last year, a member of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new oversight board in charge of Disney’s special tax district labeled homosexuality “evil” and shared a ridiculous conspiracy idea that tap water is making more people gay.
On Monday, Republican Gov. Rick Scott named Ron Peri, an Orlando-based former pastor and CEO of The Gathering, a Christian ministry focused on outreach to men, as one of five people who will now oversee the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body that has given Disney unique powers in Central Florida for more than a half-century.
In February, DeSantis signed legislation allowing him to replace the district’s existing board of directors — primarily people with ties to Disney – with a five-member panel he hand-picked. The decision to deprive Disney of power comes nearly a year after the business spoke out against a Florida bill restricting certain classroom education regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, which DeSantis ultimately signed into law.
Peri regularly made disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ population, according to a CNN KFile analysis of his prior comments.
“Then why do we have gays now? There are many justifications presented, as you may know. Several people have suggested that our society’s rising estrogen levels. Birth control pill estrogen is present in the water, you know. They can’t get it out,” Peri blatantly asserted in a Zoom talk from January 2022 that was later uploaded to YouTube. “Overall testosterone levels in American men have dropped by 50 points in the previous ten years. You know, perhaps that’s a contributing factor.
The removal of the restriction, he continued, “is the key element I would advise to you, based upon what it’s stating here. Our society, therefore, provided the constraint. Hence, what role does society play in preventing bad deeds by its members? In any case, when restrictions are lifted, bad things happen.
Researchers are unaware of the cause of the decline in testosterone levels in men during the past few decades, but the decline is not 50%, and there is no evidence that this decline has any impact on sexual orientation. There is also no evidence that birth control tablets, which provide a statistically small quantity of estrogen to the water supply, have any impact on sexual orientation. Over the years, the theory that chemicals in tap water could make humans gay has acquired popularity among conspiracy theorists. Most notably, Alex Jones, a fringe pundit, claimed that these chemicals were “making the frickin’ frogs gay.”
Peri described homosexuality as “shameful” and associated it with illness during the same conversation.
“A homosexual lifestyle has a lot of negative impacts,” Peri stated. Although there are ailments, the issue is deeper.
Because many LGBTQ individuals do not have children, Peri has also stated that they “don’t have a stake in the future” and has labeled homosexuals as “deviants.”
In one conversation, he made the unlikely historical claim—occasionally advanced by some Christian activists—that homosexuality contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.
Peri remarked, “Homosexuality was celebrated. Today, LGBT issues are highlighted everywhere, including in kids’ programming. In the end, the Romans lost strength.
Peri’s conversations frequently included social issues as they centered on viewing the contemporary world from a Biblical perspective. In other conversations posted on YouTube, Peri asserted that “not so long ago becoming a mother was the peak of being a woman” and contrasted abortion with atrocities like the Holocaust.
It baffles me why there hasn’t been a significant backlash from the Black population in response to what amounts to genocide. And if you turn to the right, you can see that there have been notable murderers throughout history. 11 million people were slaughtered during the Holocaust. Peri pointed to a graph linking abortion to genocide and said, “Six million Jews.
The associated press contacted Peri and DeSantis for comment, but neither one returned it.
Disney and DeSantis
Following a protracted legal dispute between DeSantis and Disney over the Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” statute, Peri was appointed to the monitoring board. In Kindergarten through Third Grade classrooms as well as in older classrooms that do not fulfill yet-to-be-defined requirements, the law prohibits schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special taxing district established more than 50 years ago that effectively gave the entertainment giant control of what has grown to 25,000 acres around its theme parks in the Orlando area, was abolished by DeSantis after Disney’s then-chairman spoke out against the bill last year.
DeSantis reversed course and signed a new law on Monday that granted the governor more control over the district’s destiny while also extending the term of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The new law abolished the previous board, changed its name to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and gave DeSantis the authority to nominate all five members, including Peri.
DeSantis said last week that Disney’s opposition to the PARE Act was “just a slight nuisance” and that the reason for essentially punishing the firm was because it supposedly injected “a lot of this sexuality into the programs for young kids.” He has proposed that the new board might have an impact on Disney’s business choices by including park discounts for Floridians and perhaps changing the company’s entertainment options.
We hope that they can regain their bearings because “you know when you lose your way, you gotta have folks that are going to give you the truth,” DeSantis said. But I believe that all of the board members would like to see entertainment that all families would enjoy.
A fire department, water systems, roads, and building inspections were historically under the control of the Reedy Creek board, which also had the authority to issue bonds and incur debt for long-term infrastructure projects. Democratic Florida politicians who opposed DeSantis’ takeover of the board issued a warning that a group with political motivations may use that authority to control Disney.
Are board members going to block projects that they believe would be against the will of any governor? During the proposal’s floor discussion, state representative Rita Harris noted. “Walt Disney, for instance, recently modified Splash Mountain. It was changed to Tiana’s Bayou (Adventure). What would happen if the governor objected to that? Would the board then be able to pressure an organization to alter its business strategy only to avoid misaligning (with) them?
Along with Peri, DeSantis appointed to the board Bridget Ziegler, the wife of Christian Ziegler, the new chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and Martin Garcia, a Tampa attorney whose private investment firm donated $50,000 to the governor’s 2022 reelection campaign. Garcia is also a co-founder of the conservative group Moms for Liberty.