Religion and Politics and Mike Johnson

Photo by Ed Uthman. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Ed Uthman. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

While questions on the role of religion in American politics never go completely away, there’s an ebb and flow to the public conversation. The election of US Mike Johnson (R-LA) as Speaker of the House of US Representatives looks like a “high tide” moment.

Johnson’s an unabashed Christian nationalist who’s pro-life, anti-LGBTQ, pro-Israel on “biblical prophecy” grounds, and opposes the “so-called” constitutional/Jeffersonian principle of separation of church and state: “The founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state,” he says, “not the other way around.”

Not unexpectedly, he’s experiencing pushback from various corners, including more than 12,000 Christians who’ve signed a petition denouncing him as a “false prophet” who “doesn’t speak for” them.

I’m a fan of keeping the state separate from pretty much everything, especially religion. There’s pretty strong historical grounding for believing that’s what the people who created the system we live in intended. In addition to Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, in which he posited a “wall of separation,” the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli is clear: “[T]the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

On the other hand, if we’re going to allow the federal government to exist at all, I’m with those guys, who also ordered that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

I’m not concerned with Johnson’s beliefs. In fact, since he’s a politician, I consider it foolish to assume that they bear any resemblance to his claims. For all I know he’s a closet Muslim, a secret atheist, or, most likely, a narcissist who sees God in the mirror when he shaves each morning.

His actions, however, are a different story.

When Johnson came to Congress, he swore an oath (in defiance of biblical command, by the way — Matthew 5:33-37) to “support and defend the Constitution.”

That oath obligates him to certain things even if the Constitution contradicts his interpretation of scripture.

If it’s impossible to be true to both, he needs to pick one.

If he can’t bring himself to do the job as he swore to do it, he should resign rather than betray his oath, and certainly rather than seek and accept the position of Speaker.

Unfortunately, he seems to have missed 1st Corinthians 10:21: “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Jack Smith v. the Public’s Right to Cameras in the Courtroom

US District Court of DC courtroom. Public Domain.
US District Court of DC courtroom. Public Domain.

On November 3, Special Counsel Jack Smith filed  the “United States’ Opposition to Applications to Broadcast the Criminal Trial of United States v. Trump” with the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

A “coalition of media organizations” has petitioned the court to allow recording and broadcasting of former president Donald Trump’s federal trial on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstructing an official proceeding (and conspiring to do so), and conspiracy against rights.

Granting that request seems like a no-brainer. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused the right to a “public” trial, and it’s clearly in the public’s interest to be able to follow judicial proceedings in real time.

Unfortunately, federal courts respect neither that right nor that interest. “The relief the Applicants seek,” Smith argues, “is clearly foreclosed under rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Local Criminal Rule 53.1.1.”

The latter being a more detailed version of the former, I’ll quote from it:

“The taking of photographs and operation of tape recorders inside the United States Courthouse and radio and television broadcasting from inside the courthouse during progress of or in connection with judicial proceedings, including proceedings before a United States Magistrate Judge, whether or not court is actually in session, are prohibited.”

In theory, you or I could personally attend Trump’s trial.

In reality, unless we’re members of a select club or can camp outside the courthouse for days in advance, our chances of getting in approach zero. The courtroom will be packed, and those who can’t get in will be limited to hearing about the proceedings from those who CAN get in.

In an age of inexpensive and unintrusive audio and video broadcasting, that’s the exact opposite of “public.” There’s no good excuse for limiting the public to hearing at second hand about a public proceeding that we could, if allowed to, easily watch in real time or in recorded format.

A footnote to Smith’s filing claims that “Counsel for former President Trump has requested that government counsel convey that he takes no position with respect to these Applications.”

He SHOULD take a position — the position that the Sixth Amendment trumps (pun intended) the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. And he should direct his lawyers to actively pursue broadcast of his trial by supporting the petition and joining any appeal of its denial, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Zombie Isms of the Protectionists

Made in America: an iconic Spanish one-liner delivered by an Austrian action hero, filmed by an Israeli cinematographer for a Canadian director. Photo by Joel Schlosberg. CC0 License.

Ghouls and vampires weren’t the only things refusing to die at the end of October. Oren Cass disinterred centuries-old economic fallacies in “Why Trump Is Right About Tariffs” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27).

It has been over a century and a half since the American Free-Trade League imported the words of Frederic Bastiat across the Atlantic “to convince the people of the United States of the folly and wrongfulness of the Protective system” in an edition of the book they titled Sophisms of the Protectionists (better and more simply known as Economic Sophisms). And pundits have had six decades to learn from Murray Rothbard’s observation that a clear look at the notion “that exports should be encouraged by the government and imports discouraged” reveals it to be “a tissue of fallacy; for what is the point of exports if not to purchase imports?”

Yet Cass blithely asserts that “domestic production has value to a nation, so a tariff that gives it preferential treatment can be sensible and even, to use the economist’s favored term, efficient.”

If they indeed provided consumers with better goods, “preferential treatment” would be exactly what American suppliers didn’t need to stay competitive.  As James Bovard has explained, “Australia is among the world’s most efficient sugar, beef, and dairy producers” — all of which were omitted from the scope of George W. Bush’s United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (AUFTA), while “in return, the United States agreed to exempt the Australian pharmaceutical industry and film industry from vigorous American competition.”

AUFTA was inspired by Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which in turn drew on earlier trade policy; as Rothbard noted in 1993’s “The NAFTA Myth,” they “have converted an unfortunate [George W.’s father George H.W.] Bush treaty into a horror of international statism.”  Proto-Trumpist restrictions on free trade under the guise of Free Trade acronyms also gives the lie to Cass’s claim that “the school of thought that dismisses the case for tariffs is also a school that dismisses the possibility of the world in which we live.”

If we did live in a world of free trade, the “complex supply chains” that Cass wants to keep within  American shores to support “building and repairing billion-dollar warships” would be replaced, not by the “sailcloth and gunpowder” Cass suggests were enough to satisfy Adam Smith’s exception to free trade for essential military goods in the eighteenth century, but by a twenty-first century update of Bastiat’s proposed replacement of armadas “vomiting fire, death, and desolation over our cities” by the “merchant vessel, which comes to offer in free and peaceable exchange, produce for produce.”

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Zombie Isms of the Protectionists” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], November 9, 2023