What role Speaker Mike Johnson’s religious views play in his politics

What role Speaker Mike Johnson’s religious views play in his politics

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson is in his fourth term in Congress, yet many might just be learning about his strongly-held religious views and their influence on his politics.

The Louisiana Republican and constitutional lawyer is a deeply evangelical Christian who has proudly spoken about his religious beliefs throughout his political career.

But his new role as speaker and being second-in-line in presidential succession has cast new light on how those beliefs may color his positions on high-profile culture war issues such as abortion and gay rights.

Johnson -- a supporter of former President Donald Trump and a 2020 election denier -- told a Baptist newspaper when he was running for Congress in 2016, "I'm a committed Christian and my faith informs everything I do." In an interview that aired Thursday night on Fox News, Johnson told host Sean Hannity that "Someone asked me today in the media, 'People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?' I said, 'Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That's my worldview."

PHOTO: Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks after his election at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Oct. 25, 2023. (Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks after his election at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Oct. 25, 2023. (Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images)

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Raskin on Johnson: 'What theocracy looks like'

Ken Ham -- the founder of the Ark Encounter, a life-size Noah's Ark and creationist theme park -- has formed a friendship with the new speaker and has described Johnson as one of the only "godly men" in Congress.

In a 2016 interview that has recently resurfaced, Johnson contends that "we don't live in a democracy" because America is a constitutional republic.

"And the founders set that up because they followed the biblical admonition on what a civil society is supposed to look like."

Some Democrats have signaled that the influence religion has on Johnson's politics is troubling.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said in a post on X that Johnson's speakership "is what theocracy looks like."

"Speaker Mike Johnson? Anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-democracy. This is what theocracy looks like," Raskin wrote.

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House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., called Johnson "extreme," citing his anti-abortion views.

"Mike Johnson has a very pleasant demeanor, but his voting record is as extreme as the most extreme members of his conference with very few exceptions," Jeffries said at the Center for American Progress Conference ahead of the vote electing Johnson.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson, in a statement to ABC News, called Johnson "the most anti-equality Speaker in U.S. history."

His religious convictions are appealing to some lawmakers. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., posted a photo to X that showed him praying on the House floor alongside Johnson.

“Mike Johnson is a strong conservative, but above all else, he is a strong Christian. He’s not afraid to look to his faith for guidance. America needs that more than ever in the U.S. House,” Steube wrote.

Johnson mentioned his religion prominently in his acceptance speech, saying God helped elevate him to the top House job.

"I believe that Scripture, the Bible is very clear, that God is the one who raises up those with authority. He raised up each of you. All of us. And I believe that God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific time," Johnson said after his election.

Later, on the Capitol steps, Johnson drew on Scripture as well: "I was reminded of the Scripture that says, 'Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.' What we need in this country is more hope."

Like many lawmakers, after the mass shooting in Maine Wednesday night that left 18 dead, Johnson offered prayers -- which he said were "appropriate" at this time.

"This is a this is a dark time in America, we have a lot of problems and we're really, really hopeful and prayerful. Prayer is appropriate in a time like this, that the evil can end and this senseless violence can stop," Johnson said Thursday morning, later saying it wasn't the time to debate new legislation.

Johnson has indicated he does not believe in the separation of church and state spelled out in the First Amendment's establishment clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

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In a podcast recorded in September 2022, he referred to the "so-called separation of church and state" and said "the founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around."

Johnson hosts the podcast, "Truth Be Told," with his wife, Kelly, who is a licensed pastoral counselor. In it, they discuss "hot topics and current events from a Christian perspective," according to the podcast description.

Johnson said on the podcast that generations of Americans have falsely been told "religion has no place in the conversation."

"People have been convinced wrongly that their religious viewpoint is not welcomed in the public square, not welcomed into the conversation, and not welcomed in even a discussion in class in a public school. And that's not right. That's not what the law says," he said in the September 2022 episode. "It's had a tragic effect because people are separating what is 'religious' with 'real life.' And that dichotomy was never intended by the founding fathers -- it is a tragedy and it has made now a lot of people assume that religion is almost a bad word."

Abortion and gay rights

As a hard-line conservative, Johnson's religion appears interwoven with his views on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights.

PHOTO: Rep. Mike Johnson leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club, May 16, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Rep. Mike Johnson leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club, May 16, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Johnson has a long history of opposing abortion rights and has earned an "A+" rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

He has endorsed a bill that would ban abortion nationally after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Johnson's home state of Louisiana has a total abortion ban, with limited exceptions. He has also endorsed anti-abortion legislation that would effectively ban abortions nationwide after six to seven weeks.

In 2015, he told a reporter that cultural views on abortion have contributed to school shootings.

"Many women use abortion as a form of birth control, you know, in certain segments of society, and it's just shocking and sad, but this is where we are. When you break up the nuclear family, when you tell a generation of people that life has no value, no meaning, that it's expendable, then you do wind up with school shooters," reporter Irin Carmon wrote in New York Magazine.

Prior to joining Congress in 2017, he spent years fighting against gay rights, which he staunchly opposes, citing his Christian faith.

MORE: How new House Speaker Mike Johnson spent years fighting against gay rights

Johnson dedicated earlier phases of his career to limiting gay rights, including same-sex marriage and health care access, and through his anti-gay activism on college campuses.

In comments from more than 15 years ago, long before he became a lawmaker and while acting as an attorney and spokesman for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian advocacy group, Johnson described homosexuals as "sinful" and "destructive" and argued support for homosexuality could lead to support for pedophilia. He also authored op-eds that argued for criminalizing gay sex.

"There is clearly no 'right to sodomy' in the Constitution," Johnson wrote in a 2003 column in a Louisiana newspaper. "And the right of 'privacy of the home' has never placed all activity within the home outside the bounds of the criminal law."

More recently, he was instrumental in drafting legislation that was introduced in late 2022 but never brought to the floor that would have prevented the use of federal money to "develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually oriented program, event, or literature" for kids under 10, with proponents of the proposal saying it would keep inappropriate material from children.

Johnson's office did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.

In a "Truth Be Told" podcast last month, Johnson explained his view on religion and its place in the public life.

"If anybody tries to convince you that your biblical beliefs or your religious viewpoint needs to separated from public affairs, you should politely remind them to review their history and importantly you should not back down."

ABC News' Will Steakin contributed to this report.

What role Speaker Mike Johnson’s religious views play in his politics originally appeared on abcnews.go.com