Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has fallen under fire in the media – again. The most recent Speaker has found himself beleaguered with controversy since his appointment in 2023, from both liberals and moderate conservatives alike, and the most recent news out of a GOP retreat has not endeared him to voters or his colleagues any more.

Mike Johnson Gives a Sermon

A report out of a GOP retreat revealed that Mike Johnson, during a presentation ostensibly about holding the House majority this fall, fell into a pattern of speaking much more akin to a sermon than a political pep talk.

Source: Wikimedia/Office of Speaker Mike Johnson

Johnson was scheduled to speak to fellow Republican lawmakers at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami, Florida, this past weekend. In the process of speaking, though, participants reported that Johnson waxed on more about the Bible than he did about the majority.

Declining Church Membership

Johnson, who is a devout Christian and a member of the Freedom Caucus – the far right faction of the House of Representatives who have pushed for deeply conservative bills to make it through committee and Congress – reportedly bemoaned declining church membership when speaking to his fellow conservatives.

Source: Wikimedia/Office of Representative Mike Johnson

He also referenced multiple Bible verses, and then tried to make the argument that God was in the party’s political corner. This is not the first time that Johnson has referenced God in the same sentence as lawmaking, and the message evidently fell flat for many of his fellow lawmakers.

The Sermon Fell Flat

The source out of the conference, in a statement to Politico, said, “I think what he was trying to do, but failed on the execution of it, was try to bring us together.” They continued, “He couldn’t bring it back to make the point.”

Source: Wikimedia/Office of Representative Mike Johnson

This is not the first time that Johnson’s faith has made headlines for being deeply unpalatable even by fellow Christians. A fellow Christian and minister compared Johnson to the devil, over policies that he espoused that ignored the needs to the nations most wanting.

Deeply Antithetical to History

Johnson’s deep faith and aggressive push for religious lawmaking is also deeply antithetical to the foundation of the United States. Freedom of religion is one of the primary tenants that is granted to American citizens in the first Amendment of the constitution, it’s true, but the issue of faith is a little more complicated than many people want to believe.

Source: Wikimedia/Office of Speaker Mike Johnson

It is true that the founding fathers and many of the early peoples of the United States were members of faith. Almost all of the founding fathers ascribed to Christian-based faiths, and many made references to God in their private writings that have been read and studied.

Government and Faith Are Completely Separate

In lawmaking, though, the Founding Fathers were firm in their belief that government and faith should be separate conversations. The Constitution establishes that the government shall neither adopt a formal faith when it comes to lawmaking, or institute regulations regarding the practice of it.

Source: Wikimedia/John Trumbull

One of the most famous Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, then went further in his belief that government should not make laws or rules regarding religion. In a letter than he penned in the early 19th century, long after the Constitution was ratified by the states, Jefferson explained his thoughts on Congress and religious lawmaking.

Jefferson’s Famous Words

He explained that he felt deeply that religion was a matter between a person and their God, and that it was imperative that Congress make no laws regarding the practice of faith, regardless of what it was.

Source: Wikimedia/Charles Willson Peale / Wikimedia/Whitehousehistory

He went even further, though. He claimed that the provisions of the First Amendment “built a wall” of separation between Church and State, meaning that religion shouldn’t affect lawmaking any more than lawmaking should affect faith.

A Popular Concept, Separation of Church and State

The concept of separation of Church and State has since become famous, and there are many Americans who believe that it was originally a part of the Constitution. It is deeply ingrained in American culture that religion and lawmaking are separate, even though it ultimately was a concept that was not in any of the founding documents, in those exact words.

Source: Wikimedia/Edward Kimmel

Despite this, Johnson and his allies appear to be trying to push for further religious restrictions regarding lawmaking. Johnson’s most recent talk to his fellow GOP colleagues only showcases the devoutness of the Speaker’s faith, as well as how strongly he feels about pushing those beliefs on his fellow lawmakers.

Other Lawmakers Leaning into Faith

Johnson is not the only lawmaker who appears to be leaning more and more into faith as a justification behind new laws, either. The biggest example of this is, of course, the Dobbs Supreme Court decision that overturned the right to an abortion in the United States.

Source: Wikimedia/Fred Schilling

While there was no reference to faith or God in the Dobbs decision, it cannot be denied that the reason that the case made it up to the Supreme Court in the first place was due to lobbying from far-right Christian groups. It was overturned due to a far-right, deeply conservative supermajority who have been clear regarding the role that their faith makes in lawmaking.

A Biblically Based Supreme Court Ruling

Even as recently as this week, lawmakers out of Alabama released a ruling on in vitro fertilization that had roots in blatantly Biblical reasoning. The majority opinion cited the bible as justification for overturning precedent regarding the classification of embryos.

Source: Wikimedia/Luke Anscombe

The backlash against this particular opinion has been swift and severe. Americans value deeply their independence, and many people don’t appreciate justices making decisions based in faith for constituents who belong to none. Unfortunately, Mike Johnson has found himself in that camp of disliked politicians as well.

A Divide Between Conservatives, and Religion

The GOP retreat flop has only highlighted a divide between conservative lawmakers, and religious lawmakers. Johnson falls squarely in the latter camp, but many of his fellow conservatives were unimpressed with his attempt at rallying campaign energy.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

One lawmaker even went so far to say, “I’m not in church,” when referring to the Johnson talk. This blatant distaste from fellow conservatives could spell trouble for Mike Johnson’s leadership this fall, assuming that Republicans are able to hold onto their House majority after the 2024 general election.

Other Problematic Acts and Speeches

Johnson’s deep “faith” has been pointed out as problematic more than once in the past. Shortly after he was elected to the speakership last fall, disturbing reports arose of a Jewish family who was forced to flee their home when Johnson warned of “enemies of the gospel.”

Source: Wikimedia/Office of Speaker Mike Johnson

Johnson also has ties to deeply conservative Christian evangelicals who believe that the Bible justifies slavery. This has raised serious concerns about his ability to lead in a nation where racial and social justice issues are at the forefront, though Johnson doesn’t appear to believe that there’s a problem with his beliefs.

Johnson Will Need to Pivot

The reaction of conservatives to Johnson’s talk raises serious questions regarding the prospects of the GOP this coming fall. Every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection this fall, and it appears that Johnson may have a hill to climb when it comes to being reelected to the House.

Source: Wikimedia/Office of Senator Mitch McConnell

He will need to make serious efforts to wrangle his conference going forward, in order to convince people of his ability to lead as well as his neutrality when it comes to divisive issues of faith. Whether Johnson is willing to pivot and make that shift remains to be seen, but if the speech he gave to the GOP is any indication, it doesn’t look good.