House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) explained the separation of church and state when cornered by CNBC co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin, calling it a “misnomer” and emphasizing the influence of faith on public life.
Johnson referenced historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and John Adams in support of his view.
“The separation of church and state is a misnomer —people misunderstand it,” Johnson pressed.
Lots of misleading headlines. Take a look at what I actually said here: pic.twitter.com/Vw3AHzoRvT
— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) November 15, 2023
“Of course, it comes from a phrase that was in a letter that [Thomas] Jefferson wrote — it’s not in the Constitution,” he added.
“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 is exactly the opposite.”
“It’s exactly the opposite.”
“They knew that it would be important to maintain our system,” Johnson pressed.
“And that’s why I think we need more of that — 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.”
Johnson, known for his strong faith, believes in the importance of faith in the public square and its role in maintaining moral consensus and accountability in self-governance.
“Faith — our deep religious heritage and tradition is a big part of what it means to be an American,” Johnson said.
“When the founders set the 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 to maintain this grand experiment and self-governance.”
“So we created a government of, by, and for the people,” he added.
“We don’t have a king in charge, we don’t have a middleman — so we’ve got to keep morality amongst us so that we have accountability.”
His faith has played a significant role in his political decision-making, drawing both support and criticism.