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New Congressional Report Highlights Mike Johnson’s Christian Nationalist Views

Johnson has dedicated his career to “undermining constitutional freedoms” through his far right views, the report says.

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on December 12, 2023.

Members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus (CFC), a collection of 20 lawmakers in Congress who seek to “protect the secular character of our government by adhering to the strict Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state,” released a white paper report on Wednesday showcasing Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s (R-Louisiana) disturbing Christian nationalist views.

The report includes insights into how Johnson has tried to integrate his far right Christian views into government and public spheres — and highlights how Johnson, a then-relatively unknown lawmaker, played an instrumental role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election in order to keep former President Donald Trump in the White House.

In remarks about the report on Wednesday, caucus co-chair Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) noted that, while Trump was largely responsible for the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, “Christian nationalism was [also] there in a big way.”

The two entities are closely aligned, Huffman went on.

“The Trump presidency gave the Christian nationalists sort of rocket fuel,” Huffman said. “They tasted power, they want more of it, and although Trump is gone, they now have one of their own as the speaker of the House.”

Huffman then explained the difference between people with Christian views and those who push for Christian nationalism:

I really want to underscore the violence [associated with Christian nationalism]. No one should confuse the Christian nationalist movement…as just a bunch of people of faith that want to practice their faith. It is the opposite of that. These are people who want power and control over others. They want to take over our government. They want to eliminate the separation of church and state and impose a biblically sanctioned theocracy.

Christian nationalists, including Johnson, “are zeroed in on defeating democracy,” Huffman added. “Violence is a feature, not a bug, of this movement and we need to take it very, very seriously.”

The CFC’s report recognizes that it’s “the right of every American,” including Mike Johnson, “to freely practice [their] faith as guaranteed by the First Amendment.” But it also showcases Johnson’s troubling Christian nationalist beliefs.

After he won the speakership, and following reports that Johnson doesn’t agree with the long-established tenet of a separation between church and state, the CFC invited Johnson to discuss his viewpoints with them in November, which the speaker declined. Because he wouldn’t meet with them in person, the caucus said it had “no choice but to undertake our own investigation of his pronouncements and actions to better understand his public program.”

The CFC’s findings were alarming.

“Speaker Johnson is deeply connected in political practice and philosophy to Christian Nationalism, more so than any other Speaker in American history,” the report states. “He has spent decades working to deny, reject, and undermine the constitutional separation of church and state, including trafficking in fake histories about our nation’s founding.”

Johnson has, for example, openly expressed a very narrow view of the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the Constitution. That clause, combined with legal rulings since its inception, bars any government endorsement of religion and forbids the use of federal resources to support religious goals. To Johnson, however, the Establishment Clause does “nothing more than prevent the state from establishing an official religion,” the report states, a viewpoint that is an “outdated interpretation of the First Amendment cuts against decades of First Amendment case law.”

Other examples of Johnson’s far right views abound in the report, including his desire to use public resources, including public education, to promote evangelical Christianity. The report also delves into his promotion of repressive anti-immigrant policies and his past calls to deny people civil rights based on his religious views — including LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights and the right of people to obtain divorces.

The report showcases Johnson’s actions after the 2020 presidential election in great detail, highlighting that he was an instrumental player in the GOP-MAGA-aligned congressional legal effort to keep Trump in office and overturn President Joe Biden’s rightful win.

The report also describes how Johnson has worked closely with a coalition of religious activists called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The “shadowy movement,” as it’s been described by The New Republic, is a growing influence in Republican circles, and promotes extremist calls for Christians to “conquer” and “take dominion” over “key mountains of society,” including business realms, the media and governments. In the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack, NAR leaders called for nationwide and global prayers for so-called “election integrity,” and “implored Christians to…mobilize for Trump’s reinstatement as president,” the CFC’s report states.

The report notes that Johnson took part in the prayer campaign and that he’s worked closely with individuals aligned with the movement in the past. Johnson has said that NAR has had a “profound influence” on his life, the CFC report states.

The report concludes by reemphasizing that the caucus “respects the central role” that religion plays in the lives of millions of Americans, including Johnson.

“But we must be clear-eyed about Speaker Johnson’s public record: he has dedicated his career as a lawyer, advocate, and legislator to undermining…constitutional freedoms, weakening the separation of church and state, and trying to impose his own radical religious views on other citizens,” the CFC white paper report says.

The report includes details on Johnson that Americans may not have been aware of, as his relative anonymity likely played a role in his rise to the rank of speaker in late October. Since Johnson’s ascension to the position that is second in line to the presidency, however, a multitude of reports have shone light on his far right ties.

Johnson, has, for example, served as a former counsel and senior spokesperson for the hate group Alliance Defending Freedom. He also wrote the forward to a conspiracy theory-laden book that included baseless claims that Chief Justice John Roberts was blackmailed into siding with liberals in key Supreme Court cases, and promoted the “Pizzagate” hoax that falsely alleged that high-ranking Democrats were involved in a sexual “blood cult” involving children at a restaurant in the D.C. area. Shortly after becoming speaker, Johnson urged “prayer” alone in response to a mass shooting, and in the past has blamed “secularization” for similar massacres.

A poll published in early November revealed that most Americans didn’t know enough about Johnson to formulate an opinion on him. However, that same poll found strong opposition to Johnson’s past policy stances — including majority opposition to his staunch anti-abortion positions, his belief that states should be allowed to imprison LGBTQ people for having consensual sexual relationships, and his statements of support for allowing insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting medical conditions.

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