Speaker of the House Mike Johnson spent an earlier part of his career working with a conversion therapy-backing “ex-gay” group to bully LGBTQ+ kids. Every day, more information comes out about just how extreme and hateful Johnson is. This one, from CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, is a doozy.
During his time with the Alliance Defense Fund (now Alliance Defending Freedom), Johnson gave legal advice to the notorious Exodus International, working with the group on an annual “Day of Truth,” an event at which hateful kids could push back on the anti-bullying “Day of Silence.” The thinking behind the “Day of Truth” appears to have been, “Oh, kids are going to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ bullying? Well, let’s organize a day to make clear that bullying is not going anywhere.”
“Day of Truth was really established to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda in public schools,” Johnson said in a 2008 radio interview. And by “counter the promotion,” he meant “make sure LGBTQ+ kids knew they were loathed.” Johnson was a loud champion for a teen who went to school in a T-shirt reading, “Be ashamed. Our school has embraced what God has condemned,” and, “Homosexuality is shameful” after the Day of Silence. ADF represented the student in court after he was suspended.
Johnson made one hateful statement after another, but it’s not just about what he said. He worked closely with Exodus International, an organization that existed to convince LGBTQ+ people to embrace “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ,” or, in translation, locking themselves firmly in the closet and insisting they were straight. In 2013, Exodus shut down after apologizing for “years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.”
For years before that, though, Johnson had worked with the group to promote hate, appearing in its videos and press releases. Randy Scobey, a former executive vice president at Exodus who is personally no longer putting the ex in ex-gay, told CNN that ADF was “very important to us as far as helping us to feel more secure legally and politically,” and Johnson was one of the ADF attorneys he worked with directly.
Scobey said of the Day of Truth, “It was bullying those who were trying to not be bullied. That was one of the public ways that the Alliance Defense Fund worked with us.” Johnson was a committed part of that bullying.
Johnson is working hard to sell his mild-mannered, non-shouty persona as a counterpoint to so many House Republicans. But he was a professional purveyor and defender of hatred. Now he’s the speaker of the House—and there’s no reason to believe we’re anywhere close to knowing the extent of his record.