Newly elected Speaker of the house has faced ridicule after it was reported that he served as the dean of a christian school which failed to open. Here’s the full story.
Failure to launch
Before becoming House Speaker, Mike Johnson served as the dean of a Baptist law school that never actually opened its doors.
The Judge Paul Pressler School of Law, a project of Louisiana College, aimed to promote a “biblical worldview.”
Not up to the challenge
However, it fell apart around a decade ago due to internal conflicts, financial issues, and accreditation challenges.
The failed venture sheds light on Johnson’s ability, or inability, to handle leadership challenges, echoing the turmoil and far-right politics seen in today’s Republican House majority.
Johnson’s role as dean is rarely mentioned in his pre-Congress resume, which includes work as a litigator for conservative Christian groups opposing gay rights and abortion.
He also had a brief tenure as a Louisiana legislator pushing legislation allowing discrimination for religious reasons.
According to Gene Mills, a friend of Johnson’s, the law school was a promising but ultimately unsuccessful endeavor.
“The law school deal was really an anomaly. It was a great idea,” said Mills. “But due to issues that were out of Mike’s hands that came unraveled.”
Follow the Money
The Judge Paul Pressler School of Law, named after a key figure in the Southern Baptist Convention’s shift toward the political right, had ambitious plans.
Johnson, as its dean, launched a fundraising campaign and held high-profile events with prominent figures.
Financial and Legal Woes
However, financial struggles and lawsuits emerged, including a whistleblower claim against the school’s president.
The law school’s campus, a former federal courthouse in Shreveport, also required costly renovations.
Guarding Who’s Freedom?
Ultimately, the school couldn’t obtain accreditation to issue juris doctorate degrees, and major donors withdrew their support, leading to its demise.
Johnson stepped down as dean in 2012 and returned to litigation for Christian causes, eventually founding a pro-bono firm, Freedom Guard.
Christians Against Contraception
Johnson remained connected to the school, representing it in a case challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
This type of case defined his legal career, aligning with his conservative values.
Mike Johnson, of Shreveport, Louisiana, comes from a traditional Christian background. He and his wife, Kelly, championed covenant marriages, known for their strict divorce requirements.
Road to Roe v. Wade
Johnson’s political career took off as he represented the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization promoting traditional family values.
Over time, the organization grew into the Alliance Defending Freedom, which played a significant role in conservative legal victories, including the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling.
His opposition to the LGBTQ+ rights movement gained attention in the mid-2000s.
He fought against a New Orleans law granting health benefits to same-sex partners of city workers, and his writings included anti-gay rhetoric.
In 2015, Johnson sponsored the Marriage and Conscience Act, aiming to protect businesses that discriminated against gay couples for religious reasons.
This bill, similar to arguments used against interracial marriage during the Civil Rights era, was rejected.
Backing a Loser
The following year, his “Pastor Protection Act” caused controversy by potentially creating a legal defense for clergy opposing interracial marriage.
Johnson, despite having an adopted Black son, downplayed the issue, stating it wasn’t a significant concern. This bill was also rejected. Subsequently, he was elected to Congress.
In Good Company
The news that the newest speaker of the house was involved in a Baptist Law School led to a lot of ridicule online, with one user posting, “Who is this clown that the GOP made Speaker of the House? He will be just another disaster for the GOP lead House.” Another joked, “Was it part of Trump University?”
Nothing to See Here
However, some posters online still openly supported Johnson, with one user posting, “And what does this have to do with him being house speaker? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Just more complaining to complain.”
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