I Prayed have prayed
Father, thank You for this ruling, but in this conflict between Disney and DeSantis, we seek Your will for Florida.

Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been thrown out.

From The New York Times. In a significant victory for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a federal judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit filed by the Walt Disney Company claiming that Mr. DeSantis and his allies violated the First Amendment by taking over a special tax district that encompasses Walt Disney World.

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Disney said it planned to appeal the ruling.

Disney and Mr. DeSantis … have been at odds for nearly two years over Disney World, the 25,000-acre theme park and resort complex south of Orlando. Angered over Disney’s criticism of a Florida education law that opponents called anti-gay … Mr. DeSantis took over the tax district, appointing a new board and ending the company’s long-held ability to self-govern Disney World as if it were a county.

Before the takeover took effect, however, Disney signed contracts — quietly, but in publicly advertised meetings — to lock in development plans worth some $17 billion over the next decade. An effort by Mr. DeSantis and his allies to void the contracts resulted in dueling lawsuits, with Disney suing Mr. DeSantis and the tax district in federal court and the new appointees returning fire in state court.

On Wednesday, Judge Allen Winsor of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee dismissed Disney’s case in its entirety. …

Judge Winsor found that the law giving Mr. DeSantis control of the special tax district was written in a way that — on its face — did not allow Disney to claim retaliation, mostly because Disney was not the only landowner affected.

“It is settled law that ‘when a statute is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot bring a free-speech challenge by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose,’” he wrote in his ruling.

Judge Winsor, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump in 2019, added that Disney “faces the brunt of the harm” from the law but not all of it, saying, “There is no ‘close enough’ exception.”

His ruling aligned with arguments made in December hearings by lawyers for Mr. DeSantis: that it didn’t matter if the governor’s action was retaliatory, only whether the subsequent state law stripping Disney of control was constitutional. …

As part of his 17-page ruling, Judge Winsor said Disney had also failed to show “any specific injury” from actions by the new tax district board. The only injury, he said, was that Disney must now operate “under a board it cannot control,” which was not enough.

While a significant setback for Disney, the ruling is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the relationship between the company and the oversight board. The state lawsuit remains active.

A state judge, Margaret Schreiber, denied Disney’s motion to dismiss the countersuit. In November, however, she granted Disney’s request to push the next phase of the state case to March; Disney had accused the tax district of dragging its feet in complying with discovery requests.

Disney has since filed a related lawsuit in state court accusing the district of failing to comply with public records requests. …

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(Excerpt from The New York Times. Photo Credit: Travis Gergen on Unsplash)

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Sheila Neuburger
February 5, 2024

JOHN 1.1-18

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