The FFRF Action Fund finds the election of the new Speaker of the House of Representatives deeply troubling, particularly in the theocratic reasoning behind both the extremist faction’s pick for the current speaker and for sinking past nominees.
Until today, the United States House of Representatives had been without a Speaker for more than three weeks. By the time House Republicans finally agreed on a nominee that could surpass the required threshold to become the Speaker, Republicans had already gone through three potential successors to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but none of those nominees had the sufficient backing of their party to get elected to the Speakership. While the GOP has finally ended their holdout, their rebuke of a prior nominee and their support of an election-denying, anti-reproductive health candidate is especially troubling.
Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer was the party’s third nominee for the Speaker. Selected by secret ballot during a Republican conference, his bid for the gavel was quickly derailed before the full House could even take a vote. Facing opposition from the ultraconservative faction in his caucus, along with pushback from indicted former president, Donald Trump, Emmer withdrew his name from the nomination. Since his withdrawal, some opponents to his nomination have voiced their reservations, and their comments are absolutely frightening.
Members of the far-right faction of the GOP have made it crystal clear that Emmer was not bigoted enough for their liking. Rep. Rick Allen (GA) claimed he could not vote for Emmer due to Emmer’s vote to codify the right to same-sex marriage. Allen has a history of bigoted and theocratic statements, including reading a Bible verse declaring that homosexuals are “worthy of death” in a closed door meeting after the mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Orlando. He stated that Emmer needed to “find Jesus.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, also of Georgia, said that she could not vote for Emmer because he voted against Trump’s transgender ban in the military, and because he voted for the “Democrats’ gay marriage bill.” She also chastised his stance on “voting rights.”
Since ousting Emmer on those grounds, the radical wing of the GOP caucus has rallied their support around Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson. Now-Speaker Johnson has a history of opposing LGBTQ+ equality and abortion access. Labeled as an “evangelical rights lawyer,” Johnson opposed legislation that codified protections for same sex-marriages, sponsored a federal version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, supports a nationwide abortion ban and believes that women must be forced to give birth in order to supply “able-bodied workers” to support Social Security and Medicare.
Speaker Johnson also holds close social ties with many religious extremists in positions of power. He went to school and became friends with Kyle Duncan, a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Duncan has represented companies such as Hobby Lobby that have refused to follow the law because their religious beliefs somehow prohibit it. He has also worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nationalist outfit known for representing clients with fake cases to advance their agenda. Speaker Johnson is showing no signs that he has left these narrow-minded views in the past — upon assuming the gavel, Speaker Johnson showed that he is committed to carrying his version of Christianity into his new leadership role. “It was in 1962, that our national motto, ‘In God We Trust’ was adorned above this rostrum…as a rebuke of…Marxism and Communism which begins with the premise that there is no god,” he remarked from the Speaker’s dias. He went on to regurgitate Christian nationalist talking points to a room full of members of Congress who come from all faiths, and those who hold no religious faith at all, completely disregarding the pluralistic representation of the body.
“I am deeply troubled by Speaker Johnson’s assumption of the top position in the House of Representatives,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Action Fund president. “He has a long history of Christian nationalist views and we will no doubt carry those with him as he operates in his new role.”
Speaker Johnson’s theocratic views make him wildly unqualified for the position of Speaker of the House, and he likely will be beholden to the whims of the extremists who initiated this chaos. The FFRF Action Fund will continue to keep a close eye on his leadership tenure and we will not hesitate to call out religious dogma when we see it.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations, and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. FFRF Action Fund serves as the advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has more than 40,000 members and works to keep religion out of government and educate the public about nontheism.