Mike Johnson’s Worst Scandal Is Staying Married, Media Decides
Of the 469 members of Congress who call themselves Christians, the country has decided to pick on one: Mike Johnson. Apparently, it’s not a crime to say you’re a person of faith — it’s a crime to act like one. Unfortunately, that irony is being driven home with ruthless clarity in a nation where a majority of the population (63%) not only identifies with the new speaker’s faith but continues to elect leaders (87% of the House and Senate) just like him. So obviously, the issue isn’t that Johnson loves Jesus. The issue is that Johnson brings Jesus to work.
In office less than a week, Johnson has been savaged for everything from his pro-life views to his marriage. He’s been called a “sinister creep,” “MAGA toxicity at its worst,” a “religious fanatic,” which was tame considering that Bill Maher compared him to the Maine shooter that same segment. “And, you know, we don’t know much about the guy [Robert Card] yet, but apparently, he heard voices, and I thought: ‘Is he that different than Mike Johnson?’”
One of the most fascinating attacks on Johnson is the media’s obsession with his covenant marriage to his wife of 25 years, Kelly. To hear some tell it, it’s a cruel idea that “harms women” and “keeps them locked inside their own houses.”
That’s laughable to the policy’s creator, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who authored the law that Mike and thousands of other couples across three states have embraced since the late 1990s. The whole point, Tony explained to Breitbart, was to help break the cycle of divorce. “It was to strengthen and promote the institution of marriage by recognizing its importance to society. As government budgets have become bloated by the effort to address the cultural pathologies created by the demise of marriage, covenant marriage was an effort to go to the source of the problem.”
Not only that, Perkins pointed out, but covenant marriage is entirely voluntary. It requires just two things: premarital counseling “so that you have the tools to succeed” and, if things get rocky, counseling before you divorce. What was interesting about the initial stats from the law, he said, is that a lot of the young people who opted for covenant marriages had come from broken homes.
That includes Mike Johnson. In an interview he did back in 2005, the future speaker explained, “My own parents are divorced. As anyone who goes through that knows, that was a traumatic thing for our whole family. I’m a big proponent of marriage and fidelity and all the things that go with it, and I’ve seen firsthand the devastation [divorce] can cause.”
To Kelly, it wasn’t religious fundamentalism to agree to a covenant marriage — or a sign of Mike’s “creepy obsession for controlling women,” as one Salon writer so bitterly put it. On the contrary, she took it as a sign that her future husband was in it for the long haul. “To me, I thought, ‘Okay, if a man is willing to enter into a covenant marriage with me, then that really shows me that he wants it to be forever,” she said. “I think that it would be a pretty big red flag if you asked your mate or your fiancé, ‘Let’s do a covenant marriage,’ and they said they don’t really want to do that.”
Now, 18 years later, the idea of a lifelong commitment isn’t just unusual — it’s publicly mocked. This is a law that, almost 25 years ago, passed unanimously in the state legislature. It wasn’t considered marital imprisonment. If anything, it showed that both parties welcomed the idea of divorce reform.
No longer. Instead of celebrating a couple for sticking together, the Left wants to condemn them for somehow indicting the rest of society. It’s very instructive for where we are as a country. Aligning with a biblical worldview of marriage — both in policy and practice — didn’t used to be controversial. Even Barack Obama was celebrated for his seemingly solid marriage. Now, God forbid a man in Washington actually wants to keep his promises.
“They’re belittling and mocking Mike for being a good man,” FRC’s Meg Kilgannon told The Washington Stand. “Is this really where we are as a society that we hate masculinity so much that men who honor their wives and other women by being decent people are ridiculed and reviled by the elite?”
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) remembers back when Perkins championed the concept in Louisiana. “It was your bill when you were a state representative,” he pointed out on “Washington Watch.” “I was proud to support the bill. And Mike Johnson was one of the earliest ones to marry his beautiful wife, Kelly, and was featured nationally about it. And if that’s what they’re going to attack him on, then, boy, they’ve really found a great one. Let’s keep telling that story.”
From a practical standpoint, Mike’s decision to stay married is one the rest of America could stand to replicate. As sociologist Brad Wilcox explained on “Washington Watch” Friday, “… [S]trong marriages benefit our country. [They] make our civilization stronger, if you will. So we know, for instance, that communities that have stronger families — more two-parent families — are safer. They’ve got less crime. … Kids who are being raised in communities with more two-parent families are more likely to rise from poverty to affluence as adults. And we know also, too, that things like incarceration, school suspensions — all these things are much lower for kids who’ve got the benefit of being raised by married parents.”
Have a societal problem? More married parents will usually fix it. And, as Wilcox said, “These are just some of the kinds of benefits that we see sort of playing out today when it comes to marriage.” There are more. For instance, divorce also happens to cost the government billions and billions of dollars. Most of us think of marriage as a cultural and religious institution — but it’s also an economic one. And what happens to the family has big implications for federal and state spending. Back in 2008, Georgia State University found that the government has to fork over $112 billion dollars each year in welfare, anti-poverty programs, criminal justice bills, and education initiatives just to keep broken families afloat. In one decade, that means the decline of marriage is taking $1 trillion dollars out of taxpayers’ pockets (and that’s without Bidenflation!).
“It’s not unpopular,” Johnson insisted of covenant marriage back in 1999, “it’s just unknown.” And it’s not as if the new speaker is the only known leader to embrace the idea. “The Left is attacking @SpeakerJohnson for having a covenant marriage,” former Governor Bobby Jindal fired back at the critics on Twitter. “My wife and I were proud to get a covenant marriage 26 years ago when @tperkins passed this important legislation. The Left is mocking Mike Johnson because they see marriage as irrelevant. They are the ones to be mocked.”
Maybe some, like angry editorialist Amanda Marcotte, thought the spotlight of the speakership might temper Johnson’s views. After five days, she was disappointed to report that the Louisiana leader — who she calls a liar, bigot, weirdo, and villain — still supports life, natural marriage, and religious freedom. “No, he has not backed off of these positions,” she announces sourly.
And maybe that’s what Americans should like best about Mike Johnson. He’s a man who keeps his commitments. It’s just a sad commentary on the rest of the church that the world seems perpetually surprised when Christians do.
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.