Apparently, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has been much in the news for his outlier comments on COVID-19, is at it again.

He just so happened to go to a synagogue in Surfside, Florida, to sign a bill that has troubled many religious leaders.

DeSantis has ordered every schoolteacher in the state to set aside one to two minutes each day for a moment of silence.

DeSantis' goal, explicitly stated in his politically astute visit to the synagogue, is to bring God into the classroom. His God. He said it to the Jews: "The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful, I'm sorry, our Founding Fathers did not believe that."

Actually, DeSantis is a bit confused, as he has been lately. What our Founding Fathers and Mothers recognized is that nothing is more important than religious liberty, and the only way that liberty can be secured is through the constitutional separation of church and state.

In my own informal survey, I asked students K-12 what they would do with a moment of silence or two in school; they looked at me like I was nuts. Pokemon anyway? Games whose names I can't even remember except that their titles scared me — or maybe it's all those worries kids are carrying around knowing the economic suffering this pandemic has caused.

Dare I suggest such a discussion — a discussion of how the pandemic has hit and how we can help each other, and, yes, how we can be Christian in our embrace of the stranger and the needy?

But don't tell that to a guy who is planning to run for president, especially the way Republican (and Democratic) primaries and caucuses are structured. DeSantis clearly believes that the Constitution provides no limits on what he will say and do as a matter of policy.

I remember sitting as a child in Massachusetts, reciting the Lord's Prayer each day without fully understanding its meaning, as anyone should, because I was a little Jewish girl. I remember when it came time for the big Christmas play in which the girl with the longest hair got to play Mary. I was quietly told that notwithstanding my long hair, I had been eliminated because I was a Jewish girl.

When I got home, my parents gently explained that Mary was also a Jewish girl.

In the years that followed, the United States Supreme Court seemed to understand my plight and that of others like me. I remember reading about a boy who put headphones on during the prayer, making him an object of ridicule for trying to observe his own religion. DeSantis seems to think that we were all born yesterday with no memories of the loneliness, the pain and the discrimination that came with bringing religion into school, but we remember. Many of those opposing the law in Florida made clear that it was nothing more than a Trojan horse for prayers in school that do not include everyone.

If one thing should be clear by now, here and around the world, it is that religious tolerance is key to our survival. Without tolerance, all we will have is hate, and we know where that leads.

Susan Estrich can be reached at

Newsletter signup for email alerts