House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Tuesday that the notion of separation of church and state was a “misnomer” and that the nation required “everybody’s vibrant expression of faith.”
Johnson made the comments in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” after host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked about an image of the lawmaker praying on the House floor earlier this year.
“When the Founders set this system up, they wanted a vibrant expression of faith in the public square because they believed that a general moral consensus and virtue was necessary,” Johnson said. “The separation of church and state is a misnomer; people misunderstand it.”
“Of course, it comes from a phrase that was in a letter that [Thomas] Jefferson wrote. It’s not in the Constitution,” he continued. “And what he was explaining is they did not want the government to encroach upon the church — not that they didn’t want principles of faith to have influence on our public life. It’s exactly the opposite.”
Johnson, a religious conservative, was elected speaker last month and quickly sparked concern among Democrats for his efforts to oppose abortion and gay rights. He took a Bible to the rostrum in the House before taking his oath of office, saying the “Bible is very clear that God is the one that raises up those in authority … each of you, all of us.”
“Someone asked me today in the media, ‘People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue?’” Johnson recalled later that week on Fox News. “I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.’”
On Tuesday, Johnson said he believed the Founders “knew” religion would be “important to maintain our system” of democracy.
“That’s why I think we need more of that,” he said. “Not an establishment of any national religion, but we need everybody’s vibrant expression of faith because it’s such an important part of who we are as a nation.”