A detailed compilation of Mike Johnson's ties to Christian Nationalism
The Congressional Freethought Caucus has valid questions about how Mike Johnson wants to legislate his faith
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When Rep. Mike Johnson, a mostly unknown congressman from Louisiana, was chosen by Republicans to be Speaker of the House, it marked the ascendance of Christian Nationalism to the highest levels of government. A wannabe theocrat is now two heartbeats away from the presidency.
I wrote about that at the time (and much of it is restated below), but we’ve now had months of headlines “discovering” new examples of Johnson’s faith-based weirdness. His “covenant marriage.” The Christian software he uses to spy on his son’s internet viewing history. His attendance at a “Purity Ball.”
Now, the Congressional Freethought Caucus has released a paper highlighting Johnson’s ties to Christian Nationalism. They also raise numerous questions that he ought to answer given his power. It was put together by the group’s co-chairs Rep. Jared Huffman and Rep. Jamie Raskin along with CFC staffers.
The CFC, if you’re not familiar with it, doesn’t promote atheism. Rather, it promotes reason-based public policy, fights for church and state separation, opposes discrimination against non-religious people, and champions freedom of thought around the world. It was launched in 2018 by Rep. Huffman, a Humanist and currently the only openly non-religious member of Congress, and currently has 20 members (nearly all of whom do not openly identify as non-religious).
The paper makes clear that the problem isn’t Johnson’s religion: “We respect, celebrate, and treasure his right—and the right of every American—to freely practice his faith.” Rather, the paper says, the issue is Johnson’s public record when it comes to matters of religious freedom.
The CFC invited Johnson to “engage in a dialogue” about the need to protect (actual) religious freedom in the country, but he declined. So this paper is the result of their own investigation into his positions. They hope it educates other members of Congress as well as their staffers and the public at large, and they’ve also shared it with Johnson’s staff.
The paper is broken down into four sections, which I’ll summarize below:
1. Church/state separation
Johnson has called for a “biblically sanctioned government” and explicitly thinks we are a “Christian Nation.”
He wants to repeal the Johnson Amendment (named after Lyndon B. Johnson), which would allow churches to legally endorse candidates from the pulpit with no threat to their tax-exempt statuses. Indeed, during a 2017 forum hosted by the Family Research Council, Johnson called the IRS rule a form of censorship, saying, “We need to unshackle the voice of the church again.” He even sponsored a bill to repeal the IRS rule.
He rejects the idea of church/state separation. He’s preceded the phrase with the word “so-called” and says it’s the “opposite of how we were founded as a country.” He doesn’t believe the Establishment Clause should be used to prevent the intrusion of religion into the public square (like pushing the Ten Commandments or prayer in public schools).
He has lied about Thomas Jefferson’s support for separation of church and state, arguing “The Founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around.”
I would also add that he has filed legislation forcing witnesses in front of House committees to use the religious phrase “so help me God” in their oaths.
Among the many questions the CFC wants to know, this is the one that stands out to me:
Since he views the United States as a “Christian nation,” what does that mean for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other believers and non-believers? Does he support laws that favor Christianity over other religions, or that favor the Bible over other religious texts?
2. Using Public Education and Public Resources to Promote Evangelical Christianity
Johnson has pushed public schools to adopt a course that was specifically criticized for its evangelical zeal and treating the Bible “as an accurate record of history.” In response to critics who said the course promoted a one-sided (conservative evangelical) version of Christianity, Johnson said the “Supreme Court did not say you have to discuss everybody’s view on the Bible.”
He has pushed for religious symbols in the public square, including Christian symbols in courthouses.
Johnson was the attorney for Creationist Ken Ham when he wanted to use taxpayer funds to build Ark Encounter in Kentucky—they later received massive tax breaks from the state. (I would add that Johnson later defended Ham when he sued the state for the ability to discriminate in hiring.)
Among the questions the CFC has:
Will he continue advocating for the display of sectarian iconography in public places? Does that include the United States Capitol?
Will he work to direct subsidies or other public resources to religious enterprises such as the Noah’s Ark theme park or the Museum of the Bible?
3. Curtailing Civil Rights and Liberties in the Name of Religion
Johnson has a long history of justifying discrimination against LGBTQ people and impeding the civil rights of women and immigrants in the name of Jesus.
When it comes to LGBTQ people, the paper says Johnson has referred to homosexuality “as not only a sin but as an ‘inherently unnatural,’ ‘bizarre,’ and ‘dangerous lifestyle.’” He said legalizing same-sex marriage would soon lead to legalizing pedophilia and bestiality and culminate in the downfall of “the entire democratic system.” (The CFC’s paper doesn’t include the clippings directly but these are still on the internet, as you can see below.)
Johnson, who was a high-ranking attorney with the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom, worked to criminalize sex between consenting same-sex adults. As a Louisiana lawmaker, he opposed marriage equality, tried to block same-sex adoption and marital benefits, promoted “conversion therapy,” and pushed to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people.
He has also, in Congress, sponsored a Florida-style “Don’t Say Gay” law, worked to criminalize gender-affirming care, opposed trans students playing sports on girls’ teams, and voted against both the Equality Act and Respect for Marriage Act.
Johnson is no better when it comes to opposite-sex marriage. He wants to make harder for couples to separate by opposing no-fault divorce laws. And in Louisiana, he helped draft a law giving (straight) couples the option of a “covenant marriage”—basically a marriage contract with stricter rules. Any couple entering into such a contract would be required to go through pre-marital counseling before separating and could only end their marriages if there was “adultery, abuse, abandonment or a lengthy separation.” The CFC paper notes this law “empowers violent and abusive spouses to delay and impede their victims from securing a divorce.”
What about abortion rights? He wants to ban the procedure, of course, and he wants to get rid of access to contraception, too. He has tried to ban abortion clinics, called abortion a “holocaust,” and longed for a return to “18th-century values.”
As for doctors who provide abortion care, he wants them “imprisoned” and doing “hard labor.”
The CFC wants to know (among other things):
Does he think states have the power to ban interracial marriage?
Will he try to enact federal legal protections and privileges for Christians who seek to discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, or other protected class?
Does he support religion-based immigration tests?
4. Undermining Democracy and the Extreme Christian Nationalist Agenda
Being a Christian isn’t a problem for the CFC. Promoting Christian Nationalism is. To that end, they note, Johnson has promoted the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and the “Seven Mountains Mandate” which calls for Christians to take over every major realm of society (e.g. education, media, government). He also flies an “Appeal to Heaven” flag outside his office—the same flag “carried by many January 6th rioters.”
Where is that ideology coming from? Well, Johnson says Christian pseudo-historian and notorious liar David Barton has had a “profound influence on me and my work and my life and everything I do.”
He’s supported election denial conspiracy theories and worked closely with Trump’s legal teams to overturn the 2020 election. He also works closely with the groups promoting “Project 2025,” an authoritarian playbook for the next Republican president.
More recently, Johnson spoke at an event sponsored by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers during which he proclaimed that God told him he was Moses.
CFC wants to know:
Is there any part of the Christian Nationalist movement—including hate groups, attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and calls for political violence—that Speaker Johnson is willing to denounce or disavow?
Does he support the Project 2025 agenda developed by his former employer and other Christian Nationalist groups?
If Mr. Johnson is Speaker of the House in January of 2025, and if Joe Biden wins at least 270 electoral votes, will he in any way oppose, obstruct, or delay the convening of a joint session of Congress to certify the election results?
Ultimately, none of this is an attack on Johnson’s faith. It just raises fair questions about how Johnson plans to legislate his faith in a way that would affect Americans all over the country.
The paper never even gets into the many, many other reasons to be concerned about Johnson, like how he served as dean for a Christian college that never actually opened its doors or how he blamed mass shootings on (among other things) the teaching of evolution.
If Republicans ever regain total control of the government, which is unfortunately a very real possibility after this November, voters have a right to know how Christians like Johnson would use their faith to justify curtailing their rights.
“Like most Americans,” the CFC concludes, “we do not want to live in a theocracy.”