In an appearance on CNBC, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) was questioned about the separation of Church and State and the validity of the judicial precedent.
Johnson was asked about his display of prayer on the House Floor as the lower chamber attempted to rally behind a new Speaker.
The CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin called on Speaker Johnson to address the perception of public prayer in a government setting.
Lots of misleading headlines. Take a look at what I actually said here: pic.twitter.com/Vw3AHzoRvT
— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) November 15, 2023
“Listen, faith, our deep religious heritage and tradition is a big part of what it means to be an American,” said Speaker Johnson. “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 in virtue was necessary to maintain this grand experiment in self-governance.”
He continued, describing the separation of Church and State as a “misnomer.”
“We created a government of, by, and for the people. 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. And so, they wanted faith to be a big part of that,” said Johnson. “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 Jefferson wrote, it’s not in the Constitution.”
Furthermore, the newly elected Speaker provided a rationale for religious influence in government operating procedures, mentioning that the Founders wanted a religious code of ethics and morality to have “influence on public life.”
“What [Jefferson] was explaining is that they did not want the government to encroach upon the Church, not that they didn’t want the principles of faith to have influence on our public life, it’s exactly the opposite. Washington said, ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’ John Adams came next and said, ‘Our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.’ They knew that it would be important to maintain our system,” Speaker Johnson replied.
After he provided his rationale for religious influence in government, Johnson was careful in his words by mentioning that he was not in favor of a “national religion in the United States.
“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,” concluded Johnson.
In October, Johnson became the 56th Speaker of the House.