New House Speaker Mike Johnson has sparked controversy by suggesting there should be more faith in public life and claimed people don’t understand the term separation of church and state.
Lecture for Americans
The deeply religious and conservative Republican was speaking on CNBC from Capitol Hill when he seemed to lecture Americans on their belief in the state staying out of religious affairs.
Johnson, 51, told co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin that the “separation of church and state is a misnomer — people misunderstand it. Of course, it comes from a phrase that was in a letter that [Thomas] Jefferson wrote. It’s not in the Constitution.”
‘Exactly the Opposite’
The speaker continued with his explanation, saying “[w]hat he was explaining is they did not want the government to encroach upon the church, not that they didn’t want principles of faith to have influence on our public life is exactly the opposite.”
Founding Fathers and Faith
Johnson claimed the Founding Fathers “knew that [religious faith] would be important to maintain our system.”
‘More Faith in US Life’
He said: “And that’s why I think we need more of that — not an establishment of any national religion, but we need everybody’s vibrant expression of faith because it’s such an important part of who we are as a nation.”
House Speaker Debacle
House members voted to oust Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy in October, with some Democrats joining with Republicans in the historic act that saw the House fall into weeks of chaos amid a failure to elect a successor before, finally, Johnson was successful.
‘Faith and Being American’
Johnson also said on MSNBC that faith was fundamentally intertwined with being American. “Faith — our deep religious heritage and tradition — is a big part of what it means to be an American,” he said.
‘Public Expression of Faith’
He said that when “the founders set the system up, they wanted a vibrant expression of faith in the public square because they believed that a general moral consensus and virtue was necessary to maintain this grand experiment and self-governance.”
‘Maintaining Morality with Faith’
And Johnson added: “So we created a government of, by, and for the people. We don’t have a king in charge; we don’t have a middleman. So we’ve got to keep morality amongst us so that we have accountability.”
Not So Supportive
People commenting on X (formerly Twitter) were both for and against the speaker’s views on faith in public life. One person said: “You spit in the face of the founding fathers with your blatant lies about the separation of church and state! Some of the founders were very opposed to religion for good reason!”
Someone else on X blasted: “You have absolutely no idea what the Constitution says about separation of church. As for praying, Jesus said to go to your room/closet to pray and not make a public spectacle like the hypocrites do.”
In Agreement with Speaker
Support came from one person on X who said “Extremely well said, Mr. Speaker. All Americans need to exhibit a vibrant expression of faith to keep a moral foundation of values our nation was founded upon. I agree with you!”
Trump Speaker Support
Former president Trump has said he played a role in getting the speaker elected, and the two men met recently at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home in Florida.
Speaker Trump Support
Johnson has “wholeheartedly” endorsed Trump for the 2024 presidential election, saying on CNBC’s Squawk Box that “[h]e had a phenomenal first term. His first two years, as you all know, we brought about the greatest economic numbers in the history of the world, not just the country, because his policies work. And I’m all in for President Trump.”
2020 Presidential Election
The speaker also has thrown his weight behind Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election he lost to Joe Biden was fraudulent and that Trump was the rightful winner. The fallout from Trump’s refusal to concede defeat led to deadly rioting at the US Capitol when Trump urged his supporters to protest the election result there.
Trump, 77, has been indicted twice for attempting to overturn the 2020 vote and block the transfer of power to Biden. He has also been indicted for allegedly mishandling confidential government files and for allegedly making hush money payments so a former adult film star would keep quiet about an affair she allegedly had with Trump.
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