Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson previously lived in North Texas and worked as a constitutional law attorney for a non-profit legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty.
Johnson (R-LA), who was elected speaker of the House on Wednesday, worked for what is now called First Liberty Institute in Plano in 2011 and 2012, WFAA reported. The organization provides legal representation for those allegedly facing religious discrimination. Mike Berry, the organization’s vice president for external affairs, said Johnson’s Texas roots will help him in his new leadership role.
“He’s from an area that’s not too far from the Texas border,” Berry told WFAA, referring to Johnson’s hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. “He fought for religious liberty while he was here in Texas.”
“We know those are his roots, and he’ll stay true to those roots as speaker of the House,” he said.
The First Liberty Institute represented the case of high school football coach Joe Kennedy, who was fired for praying on the 50-yard line after games. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protected his religious observance from the actions taken against him, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
“I think what America is getting, and what the House of Representatives is getting, is someone who is a reconciler,” Berry told WFAA. “He’s able to cross bridges that sometimes people in government are not able to cross. Mike has a unique ability to do that.”
Berry added that Johnson’s faith is a core part of his life.
“The first and only thing he asked for was prayer,” he said.
The House went without a speaker for more than three weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted from the position. Johnson prevailed in an intense competition between Republican candidates who sought the House leadership role. He is taking on the position at a time when there is much on the chamber’s legislative agenda, including negotiations over aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as a need to pass funding measures to avoid a government shutdown next month.