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House members raise questions about Johnson’s invite of ‘hate preacher’ 

Guest chaplain appearance in January has captured the attention of Huffman and other Democrats

Reps. Jamie Raskin, center, and Jared Huffman are among the Democrats calling for answers about a prayer delivered by a guest chaplain in January.
Reps. Jamie Raskin, center, and Jared Huffman are among the Democrats calling for answers about a prayer delivered by a guest chaplain in January. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers are asking for answers after a guest chaplain known for his incendiary preaching was sponsored by Speaker Mike Johnson to give the House’s daily opening prayer last month, according to a letter sent to the speaker and the Office of the Chaplain signed by 26 Democratic House members. 

The letter describes pastor Jack Hibbs as “a radical Christian Nationalist who helped fuel the January 6th insurrection and has a long record of spewing hateful vitriol toward non-Christians, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community.”  

Hibbs should not have been allowed to deliver the opening prayer on Jan. 30, argues the letter, which was led by Reps. Jared Huffman of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.

“After we picked our jaws up off the floor upon learning that this hate preacher had been allowed to give a guest invocation, I think many of us decided we need to start calling this out,” Huffman told Roll Call. 

The letter accuses Johnson of hosting “an ill-qualified hate preacher” who shares his own “Christian nationalist agenda,” and points to guidelines for hosting guest chaplains that he may have ignored.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel last year, Hibbs called transgender people part of a “sexually perverted cult.” He is also a supporter of conversion therapy for LGBTQ people and launched a national campaign requiring schools to out transgender students to defeat “demonic and dark satanic powers.” 

In his invocation delivered in the House chamber on Jan. 30, Hibbs called for “repentance of our national sins,” and used the words “holy fear,” which the letter argues were “allusions to the militant and fanatical agenda he preaches about the LGBTQ community, Jews, Muslims, and anyone who conflicts with his ‘biblical worldview.’”

Hibbs has previously called Islam a “death cult” and said Jewish people are under a “God-given blindness.”

For Huffman, the guest appearance represents an affront to “pluralism and religious diversity in this country.” 

“We really do continue to elevate certain types of Christian religion above everyone else, in ways that I think would have Madison, Jefferson and other founders rolling in their grave,” said Huffman, who calls himself a “nonreligious humanist” and, along with Raskin, helped found the Congressional Freethought Caucus. 

The letter seeks answers about how Hibbs was approved to lead the prayer and whether Johnson and the chaplain’s office flouted existing guidelines. Instructions given to member offices say guest chaplains must be from the sponsoring member’s congressional district and be known personally by the member. They also say the sponsoring member should plan on giving the first One Minute Speech of the day to personally welcome the guest chaplain. Members are limited to one guest chaplain per Congress, and dates for such a prayer must align with the last legislative day of the week. 

Hibbs leads Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, which is located in Southern California, not in Johnson’s district in Louisiana, and the letter details other deviations from the guidelines. The speaker’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

During his time in Washington at the end of January, Hibbs appears to have attended other events, including the National Gathering for Prayer and Repentance. Johnson and several other members of Congress also attended that gathering, which was organized by the Family Research Council and held at the Museum of the Bible.  

Huffman wants to know why Hibbs was invited to lead the House in prayer while some members, according to the letter, have had requests for other guest chaplains denied. The letter mentions a nontheistic chaplain from Pocan’s district, Dan Barker. 

House chaplains open every session of the House with a prayer and perform various pastoral duties for members.

“In terms of … what he said and the full context of who [Hibbs] is, it doesn’t meet the standards. So definitely Chaplain Kibben was either asleep at the switch or allowed something that should have been disqualifying under her own standards,” Huffman said, referring to Margaret Kibben, who has held the chaplain’s post since 2021. 

The chaplain’s office declined to comment.

Huffman said he hasn’t received a response yet from either Johnson’s office or the chaplain but is eager to get his questions answered. 

“I think they have some explaining to do,” Huffman said. 

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