Win Johnson sounds like a character from one of the 1950s  Hollywood “bare-chests-and-big-breasts” biblical epics like Sampson and Delilah. Recently, Johnson rose up like a vengeful Old Testament prophet, declaring that “Public officials are ministers of God, assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous!”

Tragically, he’s not an Old Testament prophet. He’s not even a member of the clergy. He’s the attorney who heads up the legal staff at the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts. Last time we all checked, that public position was a secular one, and still subject to the Constitution’s Establishment Clause separating Church and State.

Johnson’s theocratic admonishment was part of an email rant over the recent SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage. The email went out to a number of Alabama public officials, but was apparently addressed specifically to Alabama governor Robert Bentley. Governor Bentley recently stated that, regardless of his own personal beliefs, he will uphold the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Like the late Charlton Heston in the epic 1956 version of The Ten Commandments, Johnson stood upon his 21st Century digital version of Mount Sinai and proclaimed:

Jesus Christ is Lord of all…that world includes you, me, the family, the civil government….You’re not standing for the rule of law when you capitulate to a law that defies God and exposes people to the wicked…Public officials are minister of God, assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous…Why would you leave the people of  this State, their children, your children and grandchildren to the wolves, those  who would rend the society apart with their denial of what’s good and evil? You cannot serve two masters; you must pick – God or Satan.”

He goes on to warn public officials who advocate for marriage equality (which he describes as “homosexual sodomy”) of the Judgment Day, quoting the Gospel of Luke: “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”

Sounds like Win Johnson missed his calling. Instead of appellate law (his legal specialty, according to his LinkedIn profile), he should have gone into canon law and worked for someone like John Calvin. He would have been happier hanging witches and burning heretics.

Fortunately for us, we don’t do that anymore here in the USA – and haven’t for well over 300 years. At the same time, it’s unfortunate for Win Johnson. The Southern Poverty Law Center is calling upon Johnson to resign – and so he should. History has shown again and again what happens when theocrats with their rigid dogma exert influence and control over government. It is why the Framers of the Constitution put the Establishment Clause right at the beginning of the Bill of Rights.

When confronted by the likes of Win Johnson, this author is reminded of a short prayer that periodically makes the rounds among Progressives and secular humanists: “Oh Lord, protect me from Your followers…”


K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.