Tag: lgbtq
Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson Will Speak At Christian Nationalist Confab With Far-Right Extremists

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is set to receive an award and speak at the National Association of Christian Lawmakers annual meeting and awards gala alongside a range of right-wing media figures who have pushed extreme anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion, and Christian nationalist rhetoric.

On December 5, NACL — an organization that promotes model legislation at the state level to undermine LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and public education and boasts a board of advisors filled with right-wing extremists — will hold its annual meeting and awards gala. The conference is expected to feature the group’s founder Jason Rapert, who identifies as a “proud” Christian nationalist, and right-wing commentators and activists, including some who have advocated for conversion therapy, blamed gay people for biblical floods, and warned that Democrat-controlled states are “demon possessed.”

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers seeks to undermine LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and public education at the state level

  • On December 5, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers will host its annual meeting and awards gala, featuring a lineup of extreme speakers and award recipients, as well as a keynote address from the new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. Johnson will also “be receiving the NACL American Patriot Award for Christian Honor and Courage and will be the keynote speaker during the Awards Gala.” [EventBrite, accessed 11/29/23]
  • The NACL is a “faith based para-legislative organization” that produces model legislation for state legislatures specifically targeting LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, and public education. NACL has been touted by its founder, former Arkansas state legislator Jason Rapert, as “basically ALEC from a biblical worldview,” and identifies priorities such as “abolishing abortion in our nation, restoring marriage between one man and one woman, standing up for religious liberty in every venue, promoting universal school choice and championing the right to introduce our young people to the importance of God in their lives.” (The American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, pioneered the strategy of producing and advocating for model legislation for conservative politicians to push national right-wing priorities at the state level.) [Rolling Stone, 2/23/23; National Association for Christian Lawmakers, accessed 11/29/23]
  • A message to NACL supporters noted that “Speaker Johnson recently sent a personal message to our founder and president Jason Rapert and said, ‘Appreciate the NACL and your critical mission. I want to encourage others like us to stand boldly in the gap. Our nation desperately needs it.’” [Facebook, 12/1/23; National Association for Christian Lawmakers email, accessed 12/4/23]
  • NACL’s extreme right-wing model legislation on LGBTQ inclusion in public schools and abortion has become law in multiple states. In 2021, Texas passed the so-called “bounty hunter bill,” an anti-abortion measure proposed by a NACL member that allowed private citizens to sue women they suspected of having abortions after six weeks, and their doctors, in civil court. NACL adopted that bill's framework and encouraged its members across the country to mimic the Texas legislation using its template. NARAL later tracked copycat legislation in more than a dozen states. On Facebook, Rapert claimed that an Arkansas law prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms according to their gender was based on NACL model legislation. [Rolling Stone, 2/23/23; Facebook, 3/21/23]
  • At NACL’s last annual conference, a featured speaker defended a Ugandan law that would imprison and execute citizens for “the offense of homosexuality.” Jameson Taylor, the director of policy and legislative affairs for the extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association, criticized Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for denouncing the Uganda law, stating that, “Sen. Cruz seems to have forgotten that following British law, the American colonies imposed the death penalty for sodomy.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/15/23]

Johnson has extensive ties to Christian nationalist figures and a history of endorsing extreme ideas, including on his own podcast

  • NPR documented Johnson’s ties to fringe Christian right leaders, including to the National Apostolic Reformation and self-proclaimed right-wing “apostle” Jim Garlow. Johnson has worked “very closely” with the National Apostolic Reformation, a once fringe movement that suggests conservative Christians are in a “spiritual war” against “satanic” opponents. Johnson has repeatedly associated with NAR-linked pastor Jim Garlow, who ahead of January 6, 2021, “hosted dozens of online global prayer sessions for ’U.S. election integrity’" which promoted false claims of election fraud and hosted prominent figures in the effort to overturn the election. In a 2021 prayer call, Johnson described Garlow as having “a profound influence” on his life. In a prayer call earlier this year, Garlow said that Johnson “ranks up there in the top 1 percentile” in Congress and has “worked with us very closely.” [NPR, 11/15/23; The Bulwark, 10/30/23]
  • Rolling Stone reported that Johnson displays an “Appeal to Heaven” flag outside his office, which “has come to symbolize a die-hard vision of a hegemonically Christian America.” [Rolling Stone, 11/10/23]
  • CNN detailed examples of Johnson discussing anti-democratic and anti-science Christian policy priorities as the host of a local radio show called God & Country. CNN investigative team KFILE reviewed dozens of episodes of God & Country and found that some of the show’s topics included “‘creation science’ in public schools; how to ‘fight the porn industry’; God’s ‘design for government’; and ‘the true meaning of ‘separation of church and state.’” [CNN, 11/21/23]
  • The Texas Tribune reported that Christian nationalist activist David Barton “has the ear of the new U.S. House speaker.” Barton has worked for decades to end the separation of church and state through his organization WallBuilders. [Texas Tribune, 11/3/23]
  • From 2002 to 2010, Johnson served as an attorney for the extreme anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom and was involved in its anti-LGBTQ litigation. ADF is an influential “conservative organization that carries out much of the Christian right’s legal agenda,” and has historically supported the criminalization of sodomy, and the group was involved in cases that overturned Roe v. Wade and ruled in favor of discriminating against LGBTQ couples and individuals. [Mother Jones, 10/26/23; Media Matters, 10/26/23]

NACL’s annual meeting is expected to feature speakers and award recipients who have used extreme Christian nationalist, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-abortion rhetoric in right-wing media

  • Podcast host and longtime anti-abortion Catholic priest Frank Pavone, who was recently accused of sexual misconduct, is expected to give a “special presentation” at the annual meeting. Pavone is also a member of NACL’s National Board of Advisors, previously chaired “Catholics for Trump,” and was “defrocked” by the Catholic church last year for his “involvement in partisan politics,” “blasphemous communications on social media,” and “persistent disobedience” of his bishop. Additionally, earlier this year, Pavone was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct and harassment. As reported by The Daily Beast, “The women, some of whom gave their accounts anonymously, accuse Pavone of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, ranging from unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual touching, grooming and lewd suggestions. The allegations span a period of almost twenty years, from the late 1990s until 2018.” [The Daily Beast, 2/27/23; EventBrite, accessed 11/29/23]
  • Colorado-based televangelist and podcast host Andrew Wommack, who floated the idea of forcing gay people to wear physical labels that mark them as “hazardous,” “will be receiving the NACL George Washington Lifetime Christian Leadership Award and will be a featured speaker during the Awards Gala.” Wommack has urged his followers to “take back Colorado” from the “demon-possessed” socialists who have supposedly turned the state from Republican to Democrat. In a 2021 stream, Wommack claimed that “homosexuality is three times worse than smoking, we ought to put a label across their forehead, ‘This can be hazardous to your health.'” Wommack is also on NACL’s National Board of Advisors. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/1/21; Twitter/X, 5/21/21; EventBrite, accessed 11/29/23]
  • Another featured speaker, Janet Porter, has built a career as a right-wing Christian radio host by making hateful comments about LGBTQ people, including blaming gay people for causing biblical floods. The Guardian reported that Porter was “the architect of a 1990s gay conversion campaign” and later became a vocal proponent of the racist “birther” conspiracy theory that held that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Porter’s Christian radio show was canceled in 2010 for promoting “dominion theology,” an ideology that suggests that the U.S. should be governed by Christians and based on biblical law. Porter also sits on NACL’s National Board of Advisors. [The Guardian, 4/25/19; Mother Jones, 12/9/16; EventBrite, accessed 11/29/23]
  • NACL announced that the award gala's “master of ceremonies" will be Pastor Gene Bailey, who hosts a streaming program that features Republican politicians and Christian nationalist “prophets” who warn of “demonic influence" on Earth. Bailey himself has embraced the Christian nationalist label, declaring earlier this year, “We do have an agenda, and that is I am a Christo-fascist, Christian nationalist.” On FlashPoint, Bailey has suggested “demonic influence” is behind public support for transgender people and also argued against the separation between church and state, asserting that the principle is “a lie.” Bailey is also on the NACL’s National Board of Advisors. [Media Matters, 7/18/23; EventBrite, accessed 11/29/23]
  • During the gala, NACL will award Glenn and Jenny Story — who founded the “dominionist” Christian nationalist cell phone company Patriot Mobile and frequently appear as guests on right-wing media programs — with the NACL Salt and Light Award For Christian Leadership. According to the event program, the Storys “will be receiving a special NACL award for their leadership in the business world.” Patriot Mobile has received media attention for supporting right-wing candidates who oppose diversity and inclusion in school board races and its connection to figures who promote the so-called “Seven Mountain Mandate,” or “the belief that Christians are called on to dominate the seven key ‘mountains’ of American life, including business, media, government and education.” [NBC, 8/25/22; EventBrite, accessed 11/29/23]

NACL’s founder is a “proud” Christian nationalist and several extremists sit on the group’s board of advisors

  • NACL founder and former Arkansas state senator turned right-wing streamer Jason Rapert identifies as a “proud” Christian nationalist and uses his streaming program to spew vitriol about LGBTQ people. Rapert recently called LGBTQ people a cult and a “devil of Hell,” and asserted that the NACL is “fighting against the people that are putting the queer books into your school libraries and trying to groom these children into homosexuality.” On his program Save the Nation, he declared that right-wing Christians “must take authority” over government, asking his audience, “Do you think that America is gonna be free with a bunch of drag queens running this place? No.” Rapert, who once suggested that Jesus would be in favor of burning books, was recently appointed to the Arkansas state library board. Earlier this year, in reference to the 2024 election, he said, “My hope is that the people of this nation will reelect Jesus to be on the throne here again in our country.” [Rolling Stone, 2/23/23; LGBTQ Nation, 11/28/23; Twitter/X, 3/22/23, 2/2/23, 5/5/23; Meidas Touch, 9/21/23]
  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel's founder Mat Staver, who sits on the NACL’s National Board of Advisors, advocates against conversion therapy protections and has an extensive history of pushing extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including equating gay people with “pedophiles.” Liberty Counsel has also advocated against state bans on conversion therapy and utilized evangelical media to defend the organization’s fight against conversion therapy protections, with Staver telling The Guardian in 2016 that the bans were “harmful for the country.” During a 2018 episode of Liberty Counsel’s podcast, Staver outlined the group’s support for conversion therapy and said that trans youth have high rates of suicide because they’re defying God. [The Guardian, 2/3/16; Media Matters, 7/17/19, 10/24/18; National Association for Christian Lawmakers, accessed 11/30/23]
  • Board of advisors member Tim Barton hosts a right-wing radio show called WallBuilders Live! and runs an organization devoted to ending the separation of church and state. On WallBuilders Live!, Barton and his father, influential Christian nationalist David Barton, frequently criticize the separation between church and state. The elder Barton reportedly “has the ear” of House Speaker Mike Johnson. [Texas Tribune, 11/3/23, Vox, 1/25/18; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 11/29/23; National Association for Christian Lawmakers, accessed 11/30/23]
  • Another member of NACL’s board of advisors is Rick Scarborough, who is a self-identified “Christocrat” who has a long history of launching virulent attacks against LGBTQ people, including calling them “sodomites” and declaring that AIDS is God’s “judgment as a result of an immoral act.” He has also insisted that “God would probably give us the cure for AIDS today” if the U.S. stopped supporting gay rights. Scarborough has recently teamed up with prominent figures in right-wing media, including Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA. [Right Wing Watch, 7/18/23; National Association for Christian Lawmakers, accessed 11/30/23]
  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council's Tony Perkins also sits on the board of advisors and hosts a podcast that Johnson himself has repeatedly appeared on. Perkins has a long history of endorsing anti-LGBTQ legislation and making hateful comments about the community, and the group has championed anti-LGBTQ legislative efforts at home and abroad. Perkins himself defended an anti-gay bill in Uganda that could have punished sodomy by death. In a 2016 blog post, Perkins called for Department of State employees supportive of LGBTQ rights to be “ferreted out and … replaced by conservatives.” FRC has repeatedly leveraged its connections in Congress to advance legislation curtailing the rights of LGBTQ couples to foster children and limiting the availability of gender-affirming care. [Media Matters, 10/26/23, 5/17/18; National Association for Christian Lawmakers, accessed 11/30/23]
  • Board member Bill Federer is an author and radio host who attacks LGBTQ people and reproductive rights. During an abortion discussion at Turning Point USA’s “Pastors Summit” earlier this year, Federer argued that Leviticus 20 held that anyone in Israel who sacrificed a baby would be “put to death,” and suggested that any community members “who close their eyes” to the sacrifice were also guilty. Federer also claimed that there is a split between Christians going in the “evil direction” or staying silent on abortion and LGBTQ issues and those going in “God’s direction” and speaking out against them. [Media Matters, 6/14/23; National Association for Christian Lawmakers, accessed 11/30/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Pink Giving Away Banned Books At Florida Concerts

Pink Giving Away Banned Books At Florida Concerts

Under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has become the center of book-banning in the United States, overtaking Texas, the former leading state in that category. Pop star Pink is using her Florida concert dates to fight that.

Pink teamed up with anti-censorship nonprofit PEN America to distribute thousands of copies of banned-in-Florida books at her shows in Miami and Sunrise this week. The 2,000 books in the giveaway include The Family Book by children’s author Todd Parr; The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman, who became a favorite right-wing target after her poetry reading at the Biden-Harris inauguration; Beloved by Toni Morrison; and a book from Girls Who Code. The first three books appear on PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, while the last was temporarily banned in a Pennsylvania school district.

“Books have held a special joy for me from the time I was a child, and that’s why I am unwilling to stand by and watch while books are banned by schools,” Pink said in a statement. “It’s especially hateful to see authorities take aim at books about race and racism and against LGBTQ authors and those of color. We have made so many strides toward equality in this country and no one should want to see this progress reversed. This is why I am supporting PEN America in its work and why I agree with them: no more banned books.”

Pink promoted the book giveaways—and took on the haters—in a steady stream of tweets:

After critics accused her of sharing a debunked list of banned books, she brought receipts. And on Wednesday night, she signed off with a gleeful note:

It’s really fun when someone who won’t back down or be intimidated offers a reminder of how badly—and why—Republicans are losing the culture wars they’re trying to start.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

New Speaker's Spouse Marketed Quack 'Therapy' To Cure Homosexuality

New Speaker's Spouse Marketed Quack 'Therapy' To Cure Homosexuality

Kelly Johnson, the wife of the newly elected speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, runs a Christian counseling business affiliated with some very homophobic beliefs. According to HuffPost, Kelly Johnson’s Onward Christian Counseling Services has a business document breaking down its offensive understandings of the world, placing people who are gay and transgender in the same categories as sex with animals: “We believe and the Bible teaches that any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, is sinful and offensive to God.”

On top of this, Business Insiderreports that Kelly Johnson “advertised a specialty in temperament therapy.” Temperament therapy is based on “Creation Therapy,” which was created by Christian counselors Richard and Phyllis Arno. The basic idea behind these therapies is that people are born as one of five types: Melancholy, Choleric, Sanguine, Supine, and Phlegmatic. The Arnos based this idea on work by controversial right-wing fundamentalist Rev. Tim LaHaye, a co-author of the popular and anxiety-producing Left Behind apocalypse novels. LaHaye, in turn, lifted his un-Christian-like idea of temperaments from Hippocrates.

The fact that ancient Greek pseudoscience continues to exist in modern-day fundamentalist Christian counseling is not particularly shocking. The idea that fundamentalists, unable to manage the reality around them with their acutely myopic understanding of Scripture, might try and apply some of those medical practices to psychology is also unsurprising.

After her husband became speaker, Kelly Johnson’s business website became inaccessible. It is hard to say how much her counseling practice veers into the pseudoscience of temperament theory, but the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine has this “memory” of the website dating to Oct. 26—the day after her husband was elected speaker—and her bio on the leadership page reads as such:

Kelly L. Johnson is a Licensed Pastoral Counselor, a Certified Temperament Counselor, Professional Clinical Member of the National Christian Counselors Association, President of Onward Christian Counseling Services, LLC, and CEO of Onward Christian Education Services, Inc.

Business Insider reports that neither Johnson nor the organization returned their requests for comment, but the organization does advise its counselors to hold malpractice insurance—so that’s modern.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Why Did Mike Johnson Scrub 69 Podcasts From His Website?

Why Did Mike Johnson Scrub 69 Podcasts From His Website?

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA), who House Republicans unanimously voted for last week, has scrubbed his personal website, apparently deleting all 69 weekly podcasts he and his wife Kelly began recording last year.

Kelly Johnson’s business website, Onward Christian Counseling, has also been scrubbed. HuffPostreports she “runs a counseling business that advocates the belief that homosexuality is comparable to bestiality and incest, according to its operating documents.” Attempts to access both websites now result in an “Error” message, although those web addresses have been archived.

Johnson has been described as a far-right Christian nationalist and Christian dominionist.

Last week, after Johnson was elected the third-most powerful official in America,Politico published a profile on “the Christian nationalist ideas that shaped House Speaker Mike Johnson.” The New York Timeswrote, “The new House speaker has put his faith at the center of his political career, and aligned himself with a newer cohort of conservative Christianity that some describe as Christian nationalism.”

An MSNBC columnist last week wrote, “Mike Johnson’s Christian nationalist track record isn’t a mystery — it’s a tragedy,” and added, “The new speaker cut his teeth trying to erode the separation of church and state and abortion and LGBTQ rights as a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund.”

On Thursday, in a Daily Beast opinion piece, David Rothkopf wrote, “Here’s Why Mike Johnson Is More Dangerous Than Donald Trump.”

“In interviews he has spoken of the fact that ‘We don’t live in a democracy’ we live in a ‘Biblical republic,'” Rothkop said. “He asserts this was because the founders sought to follow a ‘biblical admonition’—which must be a reference to a different group of people than those I cited at the outset. In the same set of remarks he described democracy derisively as ‘two wolves and a lamb deciding what is for dinner.'”

A Louisiana-based weekly, reporting on Johnson’s podcasts says the episodes are “focused primarily on politely and genially supporting the anti-civil rights and anti-human rights agenda at the heart of evangelical-infused Republican politics.”

Speaker Johnson and his wife published the 69 podcasts, “Truth Be Told with Mike and Kelly Johnson,” with individual titles including, “Who We Are and How We Should Lead (in Washington and Around the World).” Or, “How to Stand for Religious Freedom & Address the ‘Separation of Church and State,'” which he calls, “one of the most important–and most misunderstood–principles in American society today.”

Another, “Responding Biblically to ‘Pride Month’ and the Culture Wars,” reads: “As truth is now openly challenged and a deluge of huge cultural issues are hitting close to home for every American, it’s becoming more important than ever for all people of good conscience, and certainly Christians, to be able to think through the issues and respond appropriately. In this episode, Mike and Kelly discuss the impact of the explosive documentary, ‘What is a Woman?,’ how conservatives and traditionalists are finally awakening from their slumber and fighting back, and what the Bible says about our specific approach to the culture wars. They also discuss the new initiative to recognize June as ‘Fidelity Month,’ to help restore Americans’ belief in the importance of values like patriotism, religion, family, and community.”

Huffpost’s report on Kelly Johnson’s business points to an operating agreement and adds, “Onward Christian Counseling Services is grounded in the belief that sex is offensive to God if it is not between a man and a woman married to each other. It puts being gay, bisexual or transgender in the same category as someone who has sex with animals or family members, calling all of these examples of ‘sexual immorality.'”

Meanwhile, notes for the couple’s podcast last year titled, “Biblical Responses to a Divided Nation (A Conversation with Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis),” read: “In this episode, Mike and Kelly have an important discussion with Ken Ham, the CEO and founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry, the highly-acclaimed Creation Museum, and the world-renowned Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky. His books have sold more than 3 million copies, and his latest publication, Divided Nation: Cultures in Chaos & A Conflicted Church, explains what is happening in our society, why persecution is increasing and more and more people are rejecting the truth of Scripture, and what Christians ought to DO about it. As he reminds us, ‘it only takes one generation to lose a culture’–and we must act now before it’s too late.”

Johnson may have scrubbed his personal website, but the podcasts have not been removed from other sources including Apple Podcasts.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.