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by • November 1, 2023 • Truth Wins Out, Weekly ColumnComments (0)236

‘Preacher of the House’ Mike Johnson Once Appeared in Video Promoting ‘Ex-Gay’ Conversion Therapy

If the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins or the late Rev. Pat Robertson had been elevated to Speaker of the House, people would have freaked out. Well, it’s time to start freaking, because new House Speaker, Mike Johnson, is just as bad. He’s the earnest kind of religious nut you’d shoo-away at the airport for handing out End Times pamphlets. When asked what his political philosophy was by news reporters, he told them, “Go pick up a Bible.”

Johnson embodies the essence of Gilead from the Handmaid’s Tale, if Gilead decided it wasn’t conservative enough. If one reviews his record and rhetoric, it’s clear that his new title should be “Preacher of the House.” Or, more accurately, “The Fun House,” because if Johnson remains at the helm, Congress will be a hallucinatory hall of melting mirrors.

CNN published a disturbing story today showing Johnson’s direct ties to the “ex-gay” industry. Andrew Kaczynski, of CNN,  discovered a 2007 video from my organization, Truth Wins Out, where Johnson had partnered with now defunct Exodus International. At the time, Exodus was the largest “ex-gay” organization in the world. It shut down after Exodus leaders Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas (now Scobey) said that no one had successfully “prayed away the gay.”

(Learn the full inside story of Exodus closing in my new book, Lies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the ‘Ex-Gay’ Industry)

In the video produced for Truth Wins Out by Daniel Gonzales, Johnson says, “but an open and honest discussion allows truth to rise to the surface.” The “discussion” he was promoting, while representing the Alliance Defense Fund (Now the Alliance Defending Freedom, ADF), was about “ex-gay” conversion therapy. The video was created by Exodus to promote the Day of Truth, which was a homophobic showcase designed to mock the Day of Silence, a pro-LGBTQ event in schools intended to fight against pervasive bullying of students.

(Johnson speaks at the 9-second mark)

Interestingly, until I was contacted by Kaczynski I had forgotten that Johnson was featured on our old video, “How Can Lies be Truth?” The “ex-gay” industry is chock-full of colorful characters, so the nerdy, congenial Johnson was easy to overlook. The new Speaker is hoping that his amiable personality will cause amnesia about his right-wing activism.

Unfortunately for Johnson, today’s CNN story highlights the volume of evidence will make it impossible for the Speaker’s past to conveniently vanish. He might be relatively quiet in demeanor, but his fanatical history is disquieting. Johnson is an extremist who is 100% all-in with ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy. He personally promoted it and advocated it for vulnerable LGBTQ youth. He’s a dangerous demagogue and religious zealot of the worst kind.

It’s possible that Johnson thought he was doing LGBTQ people a favor in the ADF/Exodus video promoting conversion therapy. In his view, if a gay person doesn’t “change” the government has the right to lock them up in prison. He defends sodomy laws and doesn’t believe in a right to privacy, even in one’s own home.

“States have many legitimate grounds to proscribe same-sex deviate sexual intercourse,” Johnson wrote in a July 2003 op-ed, calling it a public health concern. “By closing these bedroom doors, they have opened a Pandora’s box.”

LGBTQ activist Bruce Parker personally knows Johnson, having previously worked against his right wing bills in the Louisiana legislature. Parker spoke to The Washington Blade and his chilling message is, don’t let Johnson’s aww-shucks demeanor fool you, he will try to kill you—literally—with kindness. Parker said Johnson “is super nice to you,” someone who, for example, “consistently” asked how Parker’s partner was doing, but at the same time “would work very hard to make sure you don’t exist.”

The Blade reported that “in his 20 years of advocacy work fighting for abortion and LGBTQ rights in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, and, now, Colorado’s Boulder County, Parker said he has never encountered someone as convinced as Johnson of the righteousness of his own positions.”

Johnson’s wife, Kelly, is a kindred spirit, with her Christian Counseling outfit having compared homosexuality to bestiality. The now-scrubbed website had said:

“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.”

Johnson’s ascension, placing him third in line to the presidency, should alarm anyone who supports equal rights, modern society and democracy. Johnson supported Trump’s insurrection and worked behind the scenes to illegally keep Trump in office, while promoting the Big Lie.

In terms of LGBTQ issues, Johnson will have many opportunities to leverage his power to cause harm and setback the movement. His old organization, ADF, which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, is now working to overturn conversion therapy bans for minors nationwide. The New Republic reports:

Fresh off its victory in 303 Creative v. Elenis, the Alliance Defending Freedom has returned with another anti–LGBTQ rights case cued up for the Supreme Court this session. The case in question—Tingley v. Ferguson—involves Brian Tingley, a licensed marriage and family counselor, who is challenging Washington state’s law banning conversion therapy for minors. Tingley, who is being represented by ADF lawyer Kristen K. Waggoner, claims that this ban violates his First Amendment rights.

Tragically, the ADF has a staunch ally in the House of Representatives with a gavel and a massive platform to promote conversion therapy. Johnson’s more savvy GOP advisors will likely try to persuade him not to discuss “ex-gay” issues. But if the past is our guide, Johnson is a religious extremist who simply won’t be able to contain himself.

On a more positive note, I predict that Mike Johnson’s elevation will lead directly to Joe Biden’s reelection. I can’t imagine the American people are crazy enough to hand the White House over to Trump while also permitting the House to remain the fiefdom of Johnson. If that nightmare scenario occurs, Trump’s January 6 coup must be judged a belated success, with America careening without brakes toward complete chaos, decay and authoritarian Christian nationalism.

(Learn the full inside story of Exodus closing in my new bookLies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the ‘Ex-Gay’ Industry)

 

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