The continuing near-daily revelations about the religiously extreme views of new House Speaker Mike Johnson should be cause for concern for any American who values our secular democracy.
As one Christian nationalist exulted after the vote elevating Johnson to his current position: “No piece of legislation can come to the floor unless he wants it to.” That is a chilling fact.
Another chilling fact has been recently revealed by Rolling Stone. Johnson flies an “Appeal to Heaven” flag — used as a symbol of Christian nationalism (including on Jan. 6) — outside his congressional office.
Johnson said on CNBC that “separation of church and state . . . is a misnomer.” When asked on “Squawk Box” about why he was praying on the House floor, Johnson derided the phrase as originating with a letter from Thomas Jefferson, who, of course, in an official communication as president, used the metaphor of a “wall of separation between church and state” to explain the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Johnson insulted the 29 percent of the U.S. adult population today that has no religious affiliation by asserting that “faith, our deep religious heritage and tradition is a big part of what it means to be an American.”
When asked for his views on issues, the newly minted House speaker infamously replied, "Well, go pick up a bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview." He is already peppering his remarks as speaker with religious references and attributes his promotion as being due to an act of God: “I believe that scripture, the bible, is very clear: that God is the one who raises up those in authority.” His wife, Kelly Johnson, told Fox News, “I believe that God has placed him here; that’s biblical.”
Johnson has worked as an attorney for multiple Christian nationalist groups, including Alliance Defending Freedom and First Liberty Institute, nemeses of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
It’s not surprising that extremist evangelicals are celebrating Johnson’s promotion. “This is the highest-ranking, serious, biblically trained person with a clear Christian worldview … the highest-ranking government official we’ve ever had in my lifetime,” exults Michael Farris, co-founder of Convention of States Action. He adds, “The speaker has incredible power — and the number one power is to set the agenda.”
Johnson is a friend of pseudohistorian and Christian nationalist David Barton of Wallbuilders, who has praised his ascension. So has Patriot Academy founder Rick Green, who says, “This man has a biblical worldview. I’m in tears. We’ve been praying for leaders that have a fear of God, that we know have a foundation of biblical truth.”
Johnson is stridently against abortion and LGBTQ rights (saying homosexuality should be criminalized), is a young Earth creationist and hostile to secular government.
When he was a Louisiana state legislator in 2015, this Southern Baptist gave a sermon at First Baptist Church in Haughton, La., in which he said the United States was founded to be a “Christian nation.” He urged congregants to “put on the full armor of God,” citing one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ favorite bible verses, adding, “This is war imagery, my friends, because we are in a war. It’s a spiritual battle.” At a return visit to the church in 2019, Johnson referred to the “biblically sanctioned government.”
Johnson, of course, drafted the constitutional challenge of Trump’s 2020 election loss. The Brennan Center for Justice has called him “the most powerful election denier in Washington.”
Most insidious, Politico reports that Johnson is a supporter of the religion-based “Convention of States” movement seeking to rewrite the Constitution and “force a tea party vision of the framers’ intent upon America.” He’s promoting an Article 5 constitutional convention, whereby states can convene a constitutional convention if two-thirds petition Congress. As a Louisiana state legislator, Johnson promoted this path to amendment, with Louisiana then becoming the eighth such state to petition Congress for an Article 5 convention.
“This man, who plots to dump the Constitution and replace our secular democracy with an authoritarian theocracy, is now second in line to become president of the United States,” warns Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.