New reporting on Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) showcases that during his time as a constitutional lawyer, the man who is now second in line to the U.S. presidency represented clients with far right Christian nationalist and often violent viewpoints.
The report from The Daily Beast highlights a number of interactions Johnson has had with anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion activists, including some individuals who, like Johnson himself, directly advocated for former President Donald Trump to remain in office after his attempts to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss.
Johnson, for example, worked on behalf of the far right Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), representing a group of anti-abortion activists in a lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee in 2009.
Among those he represented in the suit was Robert Breaud, an activist who has previously stated that the government “should be a terror to the evildoer,” using biblical scripture to refer to gay men, lesbians and abortion providers. Johnson represented Breaud in an incident in which he had played an anti-abortion musical composition he had written on guitar loudly inside a clinic, harassing those who were inside and resulting in his getting a citation.
Within that suit, Johnson also represented Jim Soderna, who was a vocal opponent of a Milwaukee city council resolution that opposed “domestic terrorism in the form of violence” against abortion clinics.
Johnson’s client list uncovered by The Daily Beast also included former Christian preacher Grant Storms, whom Johnson helped secure a permit for an anti-LGBTQ protest. That demonstration ended with a man in attendance stabbing a gay counterprotester.
Storms also glorified the murder of gay people at a conference in the 2000s, where he mimicked holding a rifle while shooting at imaginary LGBTQ people. After that event, Storms told The Daily Beast, he and Johnson remained friends, and he even hosted Johnson on his radio program.
Storms later made national headlines when he confessed to masturbating in his van near a playground in Metairie, Louisiana, receiving three years probation for his action. Johnson did not represent him in that case.
But Johnson did represent Storms’s son, Jason Storms, who now leads Operation Save America, a militant anti-abortion group that was tied to the killing of abortion provider George Tiller. Although the man who murdered Tiller was not formally a member of the group, he had been communicating with them about Tiller’s whereabouts in the lead-up to the murder.
Johnson represented Operation Save America the same year as Tiller’s murder, in a free speech case where he argued that the group and others like it had a First Amendment right to protest outside abortion clinics.
Jason Storms would later participate in the Trump-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Johnson didn’t participate in the violence, but as a member of Congress, he opposed certifying the election for President Joe Biden, and filed a legal brief weeks prior seeking to have the results of the race overturned.
Johnson’s association with these clients indicates that the speaker of the House’s Christian nationalist viewpoints are more extreme than the American people may be aware of. Other examples of Johnson’s fringe views abound, and have been subject to increased scrutiny following his appointment as speaker in late October.
Johnson, for example, wrote the foreword to a far right blogger’s conspiracy theory-laden book in 2022, giving full endorsement to its contents, which included derogatory comments toward LGBTQ people and falsely portraying the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory as real.
Johnson has expressed support for criminalizing consensual sexual relationships between same-sex partners, and has stated that the idea of a separation between church and state in the U.S. government should be dismissed. He also has a flag outside of his congressional offices whose symbol has been adopted by a Christian sect called the New Apostolic Reformation, which calls for Christians to take control of all aspects of society.
Polling indicates that most Americans reject Johnson’s Christian nationalist viewpoints, including the idea that companies should be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people and that abortion providers should be subject to harsh criminal sentences for performing the procedure.
However, that same poll, published by Data for Progress in early November, notes that Americans are largely unaware of who the speaker of the House is, as a majority of respondents (56 percent) said they didn’t know enough about him to provide a favorability rating.
More than a month into Johnson’s speakership tenure, an Economist/YouGov poll published last week shows that a plurality of respondents (39 percent) still don’t have an opinion on him, despite most rejecting his far right ideals
It takes longer to read this sentence than it does to support our work.
We have 2 days to raise the $30,000 needed to meet Truthout‘s basic publishing costs this month. Will you take a few seconds to donate and give us a much-needed boost?
We know you are deeply committed to the issues that matter, and you count on us to bring you trustworthy reporting and comprehensive analysis on the real issues facing our country and the world. And as a nonprofit newsroom supported by reader donations, we’re counting on you too. If you believe in the importance of an independent, free media, please make a tax-deductible donation today!