House Speaker Mike Johnson will speak at a Christian nationalist event next week, making it very clear that the extreme wing of the Republican Party is now fully in control.
The National Association of Christian Lawmakers revealed last week that Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the organization’s annual gala, but the announcement didn’t get too much attention until Rolling Stone reported it on Wednesday.
The NACL is a Christian nationalist organization that says its goal is to codify a “biblical worldview” into law. On its website, the NACL says its mission is to “bring federal, state and local lawmakers together in support of clear biblical principles.” Because who needs the separation of church and state?
The organization is quite far to the right in terms of its worldview: anti-abortion and, as you might expect, anti-LGBTQ rights as well. The NACL has had a key role in the passage of several anti-abortion laws, including the horrific abortion vigilante law in Texas, which deputized ordinary citizens to serve as de facto bounty hunters, with cash rewards going to those willing to snitch out people aiding patients seeking abortions.
NACL founder Jason Rapert, a former Arkansas state lawmaker, has also personally worked to block abortion access. While in office, he wrote a law banning abortion at 12 weeks. He also wrote the abortion ban that was triggered into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Rapert also flies the Christian nationalist “Appeal to Heaven” flag. He managed to have that flag flown over the Arkansas state Capitol in 2015. Johnson flies the same flag outside his office.
It’s hardly surprising that Johnson is being embraced at the NACL gala. He has a well-documented history of opposing abortion access, LGBTQ rights, and environmental policy on the grounds that they are non-Christian. His new chief of staff, who previously served as his director of operations, is just as extreme.
Johnson has historically been a mainstay at right-wing events, although his appearances flew under the radar in the years before he moved from the GOP backbench to the top spot in the caucus. In 2019, he gave the keynote speech at a conference for the Council for National Policy, an elite right-wing event. He failed to report the trip on his financial disclosure forms, and it’s still not clear who paid for him to get there or how much the trip cost.
The Louisiana Republican was also scheduled to give the keynote address for the Worldwide Freedom Initiative in early November. Johnson spokesman Raj Shah assured TNR that Johnson did not travel for any events that weekend, but he refused to explicitly confirm whether Johnson had spoken virtually or why the speaker was featured so prominently on WFI social media and event publicity if he did not speak.
Johnson’s willingness to appear at these events, especially now that he holds the most powerful position in the House, lays bare his ideological leanings and suggests that the issues he supports and plans to prioritize in legislation will stray further and further into the fringes.
If Democrats continue to work with Johnson, as they did to pass a temporary government spending bill, then he will continue being able to wield that kind of power over social issues—and possibly democracy.
“Stop laughing at his strange accountability software setup & his avowed biblical worldview,” Matthew Taylor, a religion scholar who specializes in Christian nationalism, tweeted late Tuesday. “Mike Johnson is associating with some very dangerous Christian leaders, who were central in instigating #January6th.”