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House Speaker Johnson backed creationism museum and in-school religious teaching

By Jake Beardslee · December 10, 2023

In brief…

  • As a lawyer, Johnson helped pass a Louisiana law enabling public schools to teach creationism.
  • He threatened lawsuits on behalf of religious groups when guidance tried to ban teaching creationism.
  • He represented the Creation Museum, praising it for portraying Biblical stories as historical fact.
As an attorney, Mike Johnson played a key role in enabling and defending the teaching of creationism in Louisiana public schools, including threatening lawsuits, assisting advocacy efforts, and representing Biblical literalist attractions.  Office of Speaker Mike Johnson/Wikimedia

Louisiana House Speaker Mike Johnson has a history of supporting creationist causes, including acting as legal counsel for the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter in Kentucky. But perhaps his most significant role was as a lawyer for religious groups in Louisiana that successfully passed a 2008 law enabling public school teachers to challenge evolution with creationist theories in science classes.

When the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education included language in its guidance banning the teaching of creationism to comply with Supreme Court rulings, Johnson sent a letter on behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom threatening to sue if it wasn’t removed. The board removed the language, clearing the way for teaching creationism, according to The Huffington Post.

Johnson later provided legal counsel to retired Judge Darrell White, the state’s leading creationism advocate, as White pushed local school boards to use the law to teach creationism. Emails show Johnson was included as White coordinated with allies like the Louisiana Family Forum.

Johnson also represented the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter in Kentucky when it sued over withdrawn government subsidies. He remains close with its owner, praising it for showing Biblical events as “actual historical events.”

Back in Louisiana, when the ACLU sent a letter about promoting Christianity at a high school, including teaching creationism, Johnson helped organize a prayer rally at the school. Americans United for Separation of Church and State ultimately sued and won a consent decree barring proselytizing and teaching creationism.