Before joining Congress, Representative Mike Johnson was a lawyer for conservative Christian causes. And one of his regular clients was a violent radical Christian activist who described himself and Johnson as “brothers.”
Johnson worked for years alongside anti-gay activist and former radical Christian preacher Grant Storms, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. Storms told the Beast that Johnson had done copious amounts of legal work for him in the early to mid-2000s, all for free.
“We were brothers on the path,” Storms told the Beast. “He always had our back.”
Storms met Johnson in the early 2000s when the latter was working at Alliance Defending Freedom, the far-right Christian group that has recently sought to ban the abortion medication mifepristone and public drag performances. Johnson worked at the ADF for nearly a decade.
Storms initially reached out for help removing what he called “lewd” imagery from a bus station ad. He claimed the ad included an image of men having sex.
Johnson continued working with Storms after that, and he helped convince New Orleans officials to grant Storms a permit for a protest against an annual Pride celebration. Storms’s protest ended up getting national attention when an anti-gay protester attempted to murder a man with a steak knife. Storms said the attacker was not part of his organization, but the assailant later told police he went to Storms’s event because he wanted to “kill a gay man.”
Johnson represented Storms a few more times until 2005, when Storms said they lost touch. But just four years later, Johnson represented Storms’s son Jason in a violent anti-abortion case.
Jason Storms is the head of Operation Save America, one of the largest—if not the largest—militant anti-abortion groups in the country. The group made national headlines in 2009 when it was linked to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider. The group, then called Operation Rescue, said the killer was not a member. But he had been in touch with an Operation Rescue official about Tiller’s whereabouts.
That same year, Johnson represented Jason Storms and several other anti-abortion extremists, arguing their free speech rights had been violated when a federal court barred them from protesting outside abortion clinics.
Jason Storms also participated in the January 6 insurrection—almost fitting given that Johnson led the amicus brief that more than 100 Republicans signed in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
It is, unfortunately, no longer a shock that Johnson supports far-right beliefs. He has described abortion as a “holocaust,” blamed the fall of Rome on LGBTQ people, and cited the “great replacement theory,” the far-right theory that white people are being replaced by nonwhite immigrants. Johnson flies a Christian nationalist flag outside his office and speaks regularly at far-right events.
But it is shocking—and terrifying—that Johnson is able to espouse these beliefs with no pushback on Capitol Hill. His ideological leanings suggest that the issues he supports and plans to prioritize in legislation will stray further and further into the fringes. And that could come at the cost of democracy.