Rep. Mike Johnson
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Mike Johnson to speak at Christian nationalist conference alongside extreme right-wing media figures, including a TV evangelist who claimed “homosexuality is three times worse than smoking"

Other speakers and award recipients include a pro-conversion therapy activist and a priest accused of sexual misconduct

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]