A Self-Serving Sideshow Louisiana Does NOT Need
In the free state of Bossier political leaders are often elected in back rooms—not at the polls as envisioned by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Such was the case with Mike Johnson’s race to fill the unexpired term of State Representative Jeff Thompson in February of this year. Thompson resigned this post to take one as Bossier-Webster district judge, and Johnson ran unopposed for the seat.
How Johnson wrangled his way to the top of the Bossier selection pole is a mystery to most political observers. Johnson had not been a long term resident of his district and to many in the legal profession he is a virtual unknown. And the same is probably true to most of his constituents in District 8, which encompasses most of North Bossier Parish.
Johnson’s experience as “real world” attorney has been very limited—most of his professional labors have been for state and national religious organizations that are ultraconservative, like to the right of Attila the Hun. His campaign website boasts that his model legislation “protecting public invocations, regulating abortion clinics , and restricting sexually oriented businesses have been adopted in scores of cities and states…” (which were unnamed). He may be best known to local residents for his failed deanship of the ill-conceived Louisiana College proposed law school for downtown Shreveport that was going to teach “God’s law” to students in a Napoleonic Code state.
Johnson is a Shreveport native—a fact that usually goes against the grain for the Bossier “in crowd” who almost always look to Bossier bred for their political candidates. Johnson practices with a Minden-Bossier law firm and he has served as president of the board of Providence Classical Academy in Bossier City which “seeks to pursue the glory of God and the good of his people by providing a classical and Christian education founded upon a Biblical worldview…” His campaign website touts that although“he has been offered top positions in America’s largest cities” he has chosen to stay and raise his 4 children in Bossier Parish.
After his February swearing in as the newest kid on the block in the Legislature, Johnson pre-filed his Marriage and Conscience Act; this created a very negative firestorm not only in Louisiana but also in the entire nation. Johnson claims his bill protects religious liberty; critics believe that it sets up a legal mechanism for citizens to exclude LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual) citizens from public places. What Johnson really intended and what the actual need for this act is a mystery to most legal scholars.
The national media has literally crucified Johnson’s legislation and for good cause; a similar Indiana statute almost scuttled the Final 4 collegiate basketball tournament from Indianapolis. As expected, the ultra religious right has virtually anointed Johnson as a saint while ignoring the very real negative economic realities of such legislation. Seemingly Johnson has become a spear carrier for lame duck governor Jindal whose “pie in the sky” presidential ambitions are crumbing on a daily basis.
Thankfully Louisiana legislators have not been impressed by rookie Johnson’s effort to further his personal agenda which is NOT reflective of his constituency much less the state at large. And if memories of the threatened sports boycott of Indianapolis had been forgotten, a letter from IBM threatening to pull a 300 job expansion in Monroe if the Marriage and Conscience Act was passed certainly sent them a message on the sensitivity of national companies to any efforts to discriminate against identifiable groups. Johnson has continued on his mission of self destruction by refusing to pull his bill, only deleting some of the most offensive and blatant discriminatory language.
The Fax-Net Update reported that Johnson recently attended a press conference in Shreveport held by local religious leaders opposed to his bill and failed in his attempt to gain any support. This group released a statement signed by 50 faith leaders from throughout the state declaring their opposition to Johnson’s bill ; thereafter a petition containing 3000 signatures of citizens opposed to this legislation was delivered to Johnson’s office. Unfortunately, but not surprising to those that have followed him for several years, Johnson has pledged to continue his efforts.
How Johnson can defend his near-sighted mission in his first months of holding office is beyond reason—although he will face the music this fall if he seeks to be re-elected to this office. No doubt he is reveling in the national media attention he has attracted which may well further his professional ambitions and resume. But much like Nero, Johnson is ignoring this major responsibility to his constituents who are concerned about their state’s economic stability, the impact of the crushing budget crisis on higher education, and funding for bridges and roads in their district—along with a host of other possible cutbacks in state services.
Unfortunately Johnson’s bill has become a major distraction for a Legislature struggling to save the state from virtual bankruptcy. Presumably the Marriage and Conscience Act will be sounded defeated; no doubt its mere introduction has damaged the state’s economic development efforts. Johnson should enjoy his next few months in Baton Rouge; he can expect serious competition this fall for re-election that should end his religious freedom folly at the public’s expense.