THE new Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, has described himself as a “Bible-believing Christian” in his first interviews after the election.
He has been criticised by some, however, for his views on same-sex relationships and abortion.
Mr Johnson, who is a lawyer, was elected Speaker on Wednesday of last week, after four ballots. He was the fourth candidate to be nominated after the previous Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, was rejected earlier this month.
During the three-week contest to elect a new Speaker, the House has been unable to legislate or agree spending plans.
After his victory, Mr Johnson suggested that his election had been ordained by God. He told Congress: “God is the one that raises up those in authority . . . each of you, all of us.”
An Evangelical on the Christian Right of the Republican Party, Mr Johnson is a supporter of the former US President Donald Trump, and backed the legal effort to overturn the 2020 election results (News, 25 August). He has previously described homosexuality as “inherently unnatural” and a “dangerous lifestyle”. In an interview last week, however, he said that he could not remember his previous comments on the issue.
Mr Johnson has worked for Creationist organisations, including Answers in Genesis, which built a replica of Noah’s Ark and which has described abortion as a “holocaust”.
Mr Johnson told Fox News last week that his worldview was “Go pick up a Bible.” He also said: “[I] genuinely love all people regardless of their lifestyle choices. This is not about the people themselves. I am a Bible-believing Christian.
“Someone asked me today in the media, they said: ‘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. That’s what I believe and so I make no apologies for it.”
He and his wife Kelly have a covenant marriage — a legally distinct form of marriage offered in only three states of the United States, in which the marrying couples agree to attend pre-marital counselling and accept much more limited grounds for divorce. Since covenant marriage was passed in the legislature of Mr and Mrs Johnson’s home state of Louisiana, only one per cent of couples have opted for it.
Mr Johnson has served on the board of the Southern Baptist Convention, which welcomed his election.
Not all Christian groups welcomed his election, however. The Revd Nathan Empsall, who is the director of Faithful America, a Christian community that campaigns for social justice, said that Mr Johnson was “an insurrection-supporting politician who will do anything to grab power, no matter who it hurts, simply to enforce his brand of right-wing Christianity on the rest of us”.
The Speaker of the House has the power to set the legislative agenda and derail the President’s plans. The Speaker is also next in line to the Presidency after the Vice- President.