Historian Of Religion Says Mike Johnson Is Wrong On Constitutional Fact

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In a new article for The Guardian, several religious figures in academia and elsewhere criticize the approach to combining religion and government seen with Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the Speaker of the House. Johnson has gone so far he’s suggested the U.S. could be set up for Biblically scaled punishment because of supposed misdeeds, and he’s criticized — characteristically — self-identifying as LGBTQ+, allowing abortions, and more.

Johnson also helped lead the House GOP’s opposition to the 2020 presidential election results that saw a Biden victory, pushing, for instance, the failed Texas lawsuit challenging Joe Biden’s wins in several other states. And Johnson’s alliances have troubled observers. He wrote introductory materials for a book that contained homophobic insults directed at openly gay Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and boosts to extreme-right conspiracy theories, and Johnson’s known as an associate of right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton, who pushes a conservative re-imagining of American history.

“It is dangerous to the country that the speaker of the House is relying for his understanding of American history on a writer who has zero credibility in the history profession,” religion historian David Hollinger from UC Berkeley said, discussing Barton. Episcopal priest and Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer was similarly concerned, speaking in defense specifically of the U.S. Constitution’s free speech protections.

“For Barton and Johnson to subvert the first amendment is both dishonest and myopic. Dishonest because the founders were abundantly clear that they intended church and state to be separate entities. Myopic because the lack of a religious establishment – the separation of church and state – has been the best friend that religion ever had,” Balmer told The Guardian. Johnson has explicitly pushed the idea of a closer relationship for religion and the government.

The publication had other commentary from similarly situated individuals drawing related connections. For now, Johnson is likely significantly restrained by the Democratic majority that remains in place in the Senate combined with continued control of the White House by Joe Biden, though Republicans are still finding ways to push their agenda like with the recently formalized impeachment inquiry targeting the president.