The wife of newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) runs a counseling business that advocates the belief that homosexuality is comparable to bestiality and incest, according to its operating documents.
Johnson and his wife, Kelly, have long intertwined their political and business lives: They became a known entity in the late 1990s when they went on national television as the face of Louisiana’s new marriage covenant law, which makes it harder to get a divorce. Today, they co-host a podcast, “Truth Be Told,” where they talk about political and social issues from a conservative Christian perspective. Their podcast is up to 69 episodes.
“We have been working in ministry side by side and together for our whole marriage,” Johnson said last year when he and his wife launched their podcast, in an interview with The Message, a website that connects members of the Louisiana Southern Baptist community.
The House speaker’s identity as an evangelical Christian has been a driving force in his personal life and his career, which includes eight years as the senior attorney and national spokesperson for a legal nonprofit affiliated with the religious right.
“Go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it ― that’s my worldview,” Johnson told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in a Thursday night interview. “That’s what I believe, and so I make no apologies for it.”
Kelly Johnson features the couple’s podcast on the website of her company, Onward Christian Counseling Services, which promotes Bible-based pastoral counseling. Her website also includes a link to its 2017 operating agreement, which lays out the corporate bylaws for the company ― and embraces a number of socially conservative beliefs about LGBTQ+ people and women’s reproductive rights.
The agreement states that Onward Christian Counseling Services is grounded in the belief that sex is offensive to God if it is not between a man and a woman married to each other. It puts being gay, bisexual or transgender in the same category as someone who has sex with animals or family members, calling all of these examples of “sexual immorality.”
“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,” says the eight-page business document.
This agreement also refers to “pre-born babies” and says the company is committed to defending and protecting all human life, “from conception through natural death.”
Speaker Johnson’s signature is on the last page. He notarized the document on July 1, 2017. Notaries are not required to read the documents they notarize and are sometimes discouraged from doing so for privacy reasons.
Here’s a copy of the operating agreement.
Comparing homosexuality to bestiality and incest was relatively common among Republicans in the early 2000s, when the party made battling same-sex marriage a central issue during President George W. Bush’s reelection bid in 2004. Then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) famously made the comparison in 2003, suggesting a Supreme Court case striking down state bans on sodomy would open the door to “man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”
Those comments have become far less acceptable ― but remain just as offensive ― as marriage equality has risen in popularity. Seventy-one percent of adults believe same-sex marriage should be legal, according to Gallup. Santorum apologized for his comments in 2015, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide.
Kelly Johnson’s document was drawn up two years after that.
It’s not clear whether Speaker Johnson, who is a constitutional lawyer and has a long record of attacking LGBTQ+ and women’s rights in the courts, believes that homosexuality is akin to bestiality and incest, and that life begins at conception. More importantl it’s not clear whether the Louisiana Republican plans to use the power of the speakership to advocate for policy changes that reflect these kinds of ideologically extreme conservative Christian principles.
In his Thursday interview with Hannity, Johnson said the Supreme Court “changed the definition of marriage that had been used by every human society for 5,000 years,” while also signaling he accepts the legal ruling.
“When five justices changed it, that became the law of the land,” he said.
A Johnson spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
“We have been working in ministry side by side and together for our whole marriage,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) says of his wife, with whom he co-hosts a podcast about political and social issues from a conservative Christian perspective.
It’s not a leap to suggest that Johnson, who is now second in line to the presidency, would try to connect his religious beliefs to his work on Capitol Hill.
In one of their most recent podcast episodes, on Sept. 8, Johnson and his wife discuss “How to Stand for Religious Freedom & Address the ‘Separation of Church and State.’” That episode came after a speech Johnson gave on the House floor in April in which he decried the “so-called separation of church and state” and insisted the Constitution does not bar the government from supporting religious beliefs.
“The Founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around,” Johnson said in his floor remarks.
Caroline Ciccone, president of Accountable.US, a nonprofit that examines power and influence in Washington, said the fact that Johnson is now the House speaker means there will be “more attempts to force a far-right agenda on everyday Americans.”
“The more we learn about Speaker Mike Johnson, the worse it gets,” Ciccone said. “His extensive far-right voting record and history of radical anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion statements make him one of the most extreme members of the House MAGA majority.”