Republican Trumpette, Mike Johnson, has been elected speaker of the US House of Representatives as the fourth candidate since Kevin McCarthy was ejected by a group of far-right representatives in his own party earlier this month1. Johnson is a religious nutter. Prior to being elected to this position, he was almost unknown federally2.
Before entering Congress in 2016, he was an attorney for some right-wing Christian groups and worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF; formerly the Alliance Defense Fund), something which has attracted widespread attention. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors far-right activity, calls the ADF a hate group1, which it is.
The ADF has a website which explains what it is about.
- It is against abortion and voluntary euthanasia: “guaranteeing the right to life from conception to natural death”.
- It is for religious freedom: They say restoring religious freedom is a fundamental right. They “promote the freedom of every person to live out their religious convictions in the public square, just as in the home or a place of worship”.
- It is against same-sex marriage: “They advocate for laws and precedents that promote human flourishing by recognizing the important differences between men and women and honoring God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman.”
- It is for free speech: They say they protect free speech in every sector of society including in public schools and universities because today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.
- They are for parental rights: They “advocate for laws and precedents that protect parental rights with the same strict legal standard that protects other fundamental rights”3.
However, when you look beyond the euphemisms used for some of these, their true nature becomes obvious. With religious freedoms, they say that “as secular forces chip away at our nation’s Judeo-Christian roots, religious freedom is increasingly threatened”. They even quote the First Amendment in saying it “continues to reflect the Founders’ belief that ‘[t]he Religion…of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise [religion] as [conviction and conscience] dictate.” ADF adds that it “defends religious freedom and opposes all attempts to compel people to compromise their beliefs or retreat from civil and political life as the price for following their faith.” What they are talking about here is not religious freedom at all, it is about imposing their beliefs on others. This is clear in one of the little blurbs which refers to conscience (You’re free to believe, but are you free to act?). It is also obvious when they say they want to prevent women having abortions under any circumstances, banning voluntary euthanasia and preventing same-sex marriage4.
With free speech, the ADF says it seeks to cultivate a society defined by respect and tolerance for different views, the free exchange of ideas, and robust debate. However, in this it rails against ‘government censorship’, ‘hate speech laws’ and, of course, cancel culture, supposedly because these all undermine free speech5.
With parental rights, they state that “parental rights are under increasing attack from public school indoctrination and state governments. Sometimes, tragically, parents fail at providing their children’s most basic needs. When that happens, the government plays an important role. But the government should never replace parents.” To them, public school indoctrination is teaching such subjects as climate change, evolution, geology, genetics and physics. To these ends, the ADF engages in strategic litigation, influencing law, and promoting policies which with it agrees6.
Johnson is now the leader of one of the chambers of Congress that will certify the winner of next year’s presidential election, yet he helped spearhead the attempt to overturn the last one. This raises alarms that Republicans could try to subvert the will of the voters again if they remain in power, despite safeguards enacted after the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He was the lead in filing a brief for a lawsuit that sought to overturn Biden’s 2020 election win. That claim was widely panned by legal scholars of all ideological stripes and was quickly thrown out by the US Supreme Court. In addition, he voted against certifying Biden’s win, even after the January 6th insurrection7. In an interview on a Shreveport, Louisiana, radio station 10 days later, he repeated a debunked claim about an international conspiracy to hack voting machines so Trump would lose.
Johnson is also a creationist. He has close ties to Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, and has acted professionally for the last of these. Ark Encounter is a creationist theme park, where children can learn that the Earth is only a few thousand years old and that dinosaurs were some of the passengers on Noah’s Ark (yes, you read that correctly)8.
While Johnson has not said (so far) that ‘I am a creationist’, he has said “Ark Encounter is one way to bring people to this recognition of the truth, that what we read in the Bible are actual historical events”. Even more ludicrous was his pronouncement that “Answers in Genesis aims to encourage critical thought and respectful public debate about the various attractions and ideas that will be presented at its park…”. Creationism is pseudoscience, and is not about ‘critical thought’ it is the opposite; it is acceptance of dogma despite hundreds of years of scientific evidence in numerous fields that show that dogma is bovine ordure. When he was a state representative in 2015, Johnson defended a Louisiana public school district which was under fire for making creationism and Bible study part of its curriculum. He offered to defend the district for free through his ‘Christian’ law firm, Freedom Guard9.
Johnson is also fervently against gun control, despite the constant devastating mass shootings in the US, one of which, in Maine, was on the same day he was elected speaker. He blames such instances on the teaching of evolution and on abortion10. Abortion is legal in many western democracies and the teaching of evolution is also found there, probably more so than in the US. Yet they do not have near the number of mass shootings the US does. I wonder why that would be so. Could it be that they do not allow people to own semi-automatic rifles, like those with which deranged nutters in the US kill children and adults by the tens of thousands every year11.
Johnson has called homosexuality “sinful”, “destructive”, “inherently unnatural” and a “dangerous lifestyle” and has argued that support for LGBTIQA+ people would encourage paedophilia. Between 2003 and 2004 he wrote a series of articles claiming people who were homosexual had the ability to change their “abnormal” lifestyles, presumably with conversion therapy. He also claimed that allowing same-sex couples to marry would put the “entire democratic system in jeopardy” and “chaos and sexual anarchy” could doom the republic. Johnson has also opposed anti-bullying initiatives claiming their real purpose is to make homosexuality acceptable to society12.
When a state representative, he introduced a ‘religious freedom’ bill which would have discriminated against married same-sex couples. Last December, he introduced the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act.” The bill threatens to cut federal funding to libraries, school districts, hospitals, government entities, or other organisations for “hosting or promoting any program, event, or literature involving sexually-oriented material,” including “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related topics”13.
One of the foundations of western democracy is the separation of church and state, which Johnson interpreted to mean that the authors of the US constitution “wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around”. This is a lie. As one of the founders, James Madison said: “The purpose of the separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries”14. That strife wasn’t caused by encroachment of the state, it was because of the murderous bigotry and bastardry of the religious.
Another of the founders, Thomas Paine, witnessing first hand England’s use of the church to wield the king’s power, learned early on to keep religion out of government and maintained that position throughout his life15. Thomas Jefferson noted that “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty and is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for the protection to his own”16.
If you give the religious enough power they will attempt to legislate their creed. That is what Johnson is about. He is a dominionist. Dominionism is the idea that god has called conservative Christians to exercise dominion over society by taking control of political and cultural institutions. One of the strains of evangelical theology is called the Seven Mountains dominionism, which calls for believers to take control over the seven leading aspects of a nation: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government17.
Even more disturbing, Johnson has described his own visit to the Temple Mount as “the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy.” The affinity of evangelicals for Israel has nothing to do with support for Jews but rather is tied to their belief that the existence of a Jewish state is required in advance of the end times and “the rapture,” an event which calls Christian believers to heaven and turns out less well for everyone else, including the Jews18. Perhaps that is why Johnson does not ‘believe’ in the fact of climate change. He sees it as hastening the end times.
People like Johnson want to turn the US into a theocracy and in that way are no different to the Taliban or the clerics in Iran. They are American Taliban19. Their recent stridence is because they are getting desperate, as religion, including theirs, is declining all around the world. This decline is inducing panic in religious inhabitants of the US and elsewhere as the religious can see their power and influence fading. In the US, this panic has taken the form of what has been termed christian nationalism, but is more correctly termed christofascism because its aim is antidemocratic18. They want to legislate their creed and if that involves overturning an election, so be it. As a consequence, they have thrown their lot in with an autocratic political leader (Trump) who laughably pretends to espouse the same religious values as theirs. This demonstrates how prescient Thomas Jefferson was.