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The Christofascism of Mike Johnson
The new House speaker is an opposition researcher's goldmine.
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It took Mike Johnson just a couple days last week to rise from a relatively obscure Louisiana congressman to House speaker. Suffice it to say his background and policy positions did not hold up well under their first exposure to national attention.
Johnson is an opposition researcher’s goldmine. Even over the weekend, news reports and video clips steadily trickled out exposing the new speaker for embracing views that are far out of step with mainstream America.
In particular, Johnson is deep in the Christofascist derp. And if you didn’t know that already, it became clear last Thursday during his first big TV interview as speaker, a spot on Sean Hannity’s show where he explained that his position on any issue comes straight from the Bible.
“Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview; that’s what I believe,” Johnson told on Hannity, with a proud little head tilt.
Johnson’s statement is difficult to credit. The Bible is a heterogenous document with a long, complicated interpretive tradition, and lots of odd little injunctions tucked away. Johnson has not, as far as I know, come out strongly against mixing fabrics.
But it might be more comforting if he had. Because what Johnson means when he says that his worldview is that of the Bible is not that he’s going to make a good faith (as it were) effort to follow biblical prescriptions. Rather, it means he’s certain that his own particular white evangelical Christian nationalist tradition is sanctioned by God, and that, therefore, whatever smug and barmy thing comes out of his mouth is divinely inspired.
And much of what has come out of Johnson’s has been barmy indeed — not to mention smug, and often terrifyingly cruel. Based on his stated supposedly biblical positions, the Bible in Johnson’s head is a silly, vicious farrago of ignorance and bigotry, and a blueprint for Christofascist tyranny.
Does Johnson think the earth is 6,000 years old? Reporters haven’t found any direct quotes where he’s said so publicly. But there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence that he does based on his longtime association with the cause of young Earth creationism. That’s an evangelical movement that claims the Bible’s account of history is literally true, and tries to square that with the fossil record. Young Earth creationists can be found debating whether brontosaurs could fit on Noah’s ark.
One of the leaders of the young Earth creation boondoggle/movement is Ken Ham. Ham is the founder of the Ark Encounter Theme Park and the Creation Museum, two young Earth creationist propaganda institutions located in Kentucky. Johnson’s nonprofit legal ministry Freedom Guard, where he was chief counsel, represented Ark Encounter in lawsuits over its tax exempt status, which Kentucky withdrew because the park required employees to hold young Earth creationist beliefs.
Johnson has done podcast interviews with Ham and called him a “dear friend.” He referred to Ark Encounter as “a strategic and really a creative means to defend and advance the truth of scripture in our time,” which is not what you’d say if you held the (accurate) view that Ham was a grifting doofus spreading pseudoscience. Johnson also made some young-Earth-positive noises in a 2016 sermon after a school shooting. At that time he said that gun violence in schools was the result of teaching children they “evolve from the primordial slime.”
Young Earth creationism is one of the more amusing byways of evangelical weirdness. Evangelical sexual totalitarianism is arguably just as insular, but it’s considerably harder to laugh at. Johnson’s desire to monitor others’ bedrooms has been an obsessive and foundational “biblical” bedrock of his professional career.
Johnson’s first entry into public life was as an advocate for Louisiana’s “covenant marriage,” law, which offered an alternate marriage with a higher bar for divorce for extreme Christian conservatives like him. He and his wife Kelly chose a covenant marriage for themselves in 1999.
“In my generation, all we’ve ever known is the no-fault scheme, and any deviation from that seems like a radical move,” Johnson said. He has since suggested that school shootings were the result of “no-fault divorce laws.”
Again, that sounds ludicrous, but Republicans have been advocating recently to repeal no-fault divorce and go back to a time when women were locked into emotionally or physically abusive marriages by law, with no recourse and no escape.
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Johnson is also a homophobic bigot. In 2003, when he was chief legal counsel for the far right Alliance Defending Freedom, Johnson wrote a bitter op-ed decrying Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas’s sodomy law. Johnson insisted that “states have always maintained the right to discourage the evils of sexual conduct outside marriage.” He added that the state was “right to discriminate” against gay people because “homosexual conduct … cannot occur within the confines of marriage.”
Johnson was essentially advocating for broader laws against all sex outside of marriage, which would punish LGBT people and heterosexual people alike.
Johnson argued gay sex was immoral because it was outside marriage. But that didn’t mean he wanted LGBT people to marry. Instead, he was rabidly opposed to marriage equality.
The ADF fought efforts to legalize LGBT marriages in court, and Johnson wrote op-eds in the mid-2000s that made his personal bigotry clear. He said homosexuality was an “inherently unnatural” and “dangerous lifestyle” that could lead to pedophilia and bring down “the entire democratic system.”
“We don’t give special protections for every person’s bizarre choices,” he sneered.
Johnson would like you to think he’s changed; he told Hannity on Thursday that “I don’t even remember” suggesting homosexuality should be criminalized.
But there’s little evidence he’s moderated.
In 2015, while in the Louisiana state legislature, Johnson proposed a Marriage and Conscience Act which would have allowed anyone in the state to discriminate against same-sex couples. Gov. Bobby Jindal supported it, but the business community of the state believed it would be unworkable, and it died in committee. Another state legislator said Johnson’s decision to propose the bill made him a “despicable bigot of the highest order,” which is harsh but fair.
Johnson affirmed in the recent speaker battle that he was opposed to recognizing gay marriage. Rival Tom Emmer’s vote in favor of the moderate, compromise, bipartisan 2022 federal marriage equality was seen as disqualifying by some conservative representatives. Johnson’s extreme and despicable bigotry is therefore an important reason he was elevated to the speakership.
Johnson’s anti-abortion views are as extreme as his anti-LGBT views. In 2005, he wrote an editorial in which he called abortion a “holocaust,” and claimed that the judicial philosophy of abortion rights was “no different” than Hitler’s philosophy.
Johnson suggested to Hannity that he wants to leave abortion policy to the states. But that’s a lie. As a legislator, he’s tried again and again to restrict abortion rights; he co-sponsored a bill to defund Planned Parenthood this year. He also co-sponsored an extreme federal fetal personhood law. Such a law could ban abortion without exceptions for rape and incest and allow states to closely regulate the behavior of pregnant people under child endangerment laws.
Not content with those extreme views, Johnson added his own special evil Bible clown touch. In a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Johnson spewed out standard GOP boilerplate about how Roe v. Wade resulted in the “killing of unborn children.” But then he got to the end of the standard spiel and continued to babble.
“Think about the implications of that on the economy!” he insisted. “We’re all struggling here to cover the bases of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and all the rest. If we had all those able-bodied workers in the economy we wouldn’t be going upside down and toppling over like this.” (The video below is via House Judiciary Dems’ twitter account.)
As Fast Company points out, Johnson “fails to consider … that the people who are denied abortions and forced to have children are workers too,” and that abortion often empowers women to remain in the workforce.
But what’s really remarkable here is Johnson’s honesty. Republicans are usually shy about saying that they see women as breeding stock rather than as human beings. But not Mike Johnson! He knows what the Bible thinks about subjugating women (and also weirdly about Social Security?) and he’s not afraid to dump it out there.
In 2016, Mike Johnson explained that, in his view, America is not a democracy. Instead, Johnson insisted, America is a “constitutional republic” based on (you guessed it) biblical admonitions. (The video below is via Ashton Pittman on twitter.)
That may sound like nonsense to you. And that’s because it is nonsense. But it’s also in line with far-right talking points; the right loves to say we live in a republic not a democracy. And what they mean by that is that authoritarian disenfranchisement is awesome as long as it benefits the party of white biblical Christofascism.
Johnson while in office has been true to his authoritarian principles. Elected for the first time in 2016, he nonetheless was one of the leading House supporters of Trump’s attempted coup.
Johnson was present at a crucial meeting in which House Republicans debated whether they should try to reject electors from key states that had voted for Biden, illegally throwing the election to Trump and ending constitutional democracy in the United States. Johnson told his colleagues, “This is a very weighty decision. All of us have prayed for God’s discernment. I know I’ve prayed for each of you individually.” He then said, presumably in the voice of God, that the GOP should shred democracy and overthrow the election results.
Johnson continued to cheerlead Trump’s insurrection plot despite mounting court reversals. He was one of the architects of a brief supporting Texas’s lawsuit attempting to invalidate the presidential election results of four other states. He also said in a Louisiana radio interview that there was “merit” in the charge that Dominion voting machines were “rigged.” That’s a debunked conspiracy theory. Fox News had to pay $787 million to settle a lawsuit from Dominion after it pushed similar claims.
There’s no evidence that Johnson has reconsidered his position or regrets having attempted to overturn an election. When a reporter asked the new House Speaker about his role in trying to overturn the election, his colleagues booed and told her to “shut up.”
Does the Bible tell you to say “shut up” when confronted with your past history of totalitarianism, science denial, bigotry, ignorance, and general awfulness? If you’re Mike Johnson it probably does, because for Christofascists the Bible says whatever they want. For the new speaker of the House, that means dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. It also means punishing you (and you too) if you have sex outside of marriage. It means overthrowing elections when godly dude Mike Johnson is unhappy with the results. It means lying about Mike Johnson’s positions when it’s convenient for Mike Johnson to do so.
And why not? It’s all for the greater glory of God, after all. Specifically, the greater glory of a God who looks remarkably like the new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson.
That’s it for today
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