PERKINS: The Left Fails the Test on Mike Johnson
Over the last two weeks, one of the many attacks on new Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) Christian faith has been the claim that he “believes in a religious litmus test for politicians.” The leftist publication “Mother Jones,” which the legacy media will often give lift to, published this in part:
“Though Johnson now is second in the line of presidential succession, we’re still finding out basic and important facts about him and how he sees the world. This includes his alarming record as a hardcore conservative cultural warrior, motivated by a Christian fundamentalist belief, who has fiercely opposed gay rights” — liberal code for his support of natural marriage — “called for a total nationwide ban on abortion, proposed the end of no-fault divorce, and urged a return to 18th century values. One more significant thing I’ve discovered is that Johnson appears to believe in a religious litmus test for politicians.”
Mother Jones’s exaggerations and distortions are about a seminar Mike and his wife, Kelly, taught. I know quite a bit about this — not only because I was a part of the seminar — but because the class Mike and Kelly led was based on a God and government course I’ve taught for over 25 years.
“Johnson was telling the folks in the pews that the only political candidates deserving support,” the Mother Jones piece continued, “are those who share this worldview and who embrace the notion that the United States has been a Christian nation. This smacks of Christian nationalism and appears to be a religious test for politics.”
Not only does the author not understand Christianity, but they obviously don’t know American history either.
Let me explain.
When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, intending to go to the land of promise, Moses’s father-in-law gave him advice about creating a decentralized government. The point of a decentralized government is to keep power from being consolidated in one place (like our federalist system) to help deter corruption and tyranny.
As Exodus 18:21 says, “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” These qualities of leadership are echoed in the New Testament by Paul, who writes to Titus about what he should look for in church leaders.
“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:7-8).
It’s the same criteria many — including our Founding Fathers — used to evaluate political leaders. John Jay, America’s first chief justice of the Supreme Court, had the same view. “Providence,” he wrote, “has given to our people the choice of their ruler, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
How does this line up with the prohibition against a religious test laid out in Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution? It states:
“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
As it was initially intended, the federal government could not require a religious act or profession to be made in order to hold a federal office. It started applying to the states once the Supreme Court expanded it in 1961.
It’s important to understand that this clause has absolutely no bearing on who or how voters select their preferred candidates. As Christians, we should vote for men and women who align with biblical truth. And that means you have every right to know whether a candidate for office fears God and has a biblical worldview.
These same voices in the media attacking Speaker Johnson were also criticizing evangelicals for not using a religious test when they voted for Donald Trump. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked how I could support a man who has been married three times and done X, Y, and Z, I could retire (which would certainly make the Left happy).
The reality is, I did apply this test in the 2016 and 2020 elections. In 2016, I supported Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) until he dropped out of the race. When it was a choice between Hillary Clinton, who had championed abortion and LGBT radicalism around the globe, and Donald Trump, who had embraced conservative, biblically aligned policies — in my personal capacity, I chose Trump.
I’ve spent the last 25 years identifying and working with men and women whom God has raised up to serve in public office — including Mike Johnson. Those who fear God are trustworthy and are guided by truth so that they are not easily corrupted.
Call it a religious test if you like, but in reality, it's voters preferring good people so that we might have good government.
Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council and executive editor of The Washington Stand.