LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Kentucky lawmaker who killed himself amid accusations of sexually assaulting a teenage girl was being remembered Monday in the same church where he preached and defiantly denied the allegations.
Dan Johnson’s family and friends gathered at Heart of Fire church in Louisville, days after his body was found along a secluded road with what Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The mourners included bikers who drove their motorcycles up the long driveway to the stone church where Johnson was pastor. A large grass lot in front of the stone church was filling up before the service began. A large U.S. flag and a smaller “Don’t Tread On Me” flag fluttered nearby.
WDRB-TV reported that the service began with singing and Johnson’s son, Judah, was the first to speak to the crowd in the packed church.
“Anyone that knew my dad knew that he was about freedom and being free from the power of sin and death and all the above, and that being the case, this is a celebration,” he said. “We’re going to celebrate his life, and it’s a lot to celebrate.”
Johnson was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2016 amid a wave of Republican victories that gave the GOP control of the chamber for the first time in nearly a century. During the campaign, he defied calls from Republican leaders for him to drop out of the race after media reported on some of Johnson’s Facebook posts comparing Barack and Michelle Obama to monkeys.
As a freshman legislator, Johnson sponsored bills having to do with religious liberty and teaching the Bible in public schools, but he was mostly out of the spotlight.
That ended a week ago when the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an account from a woman who said Johnson sexually assaulted her in the basement of his home in 2013. Police investigated the incident but closed the case and did not file charges.
The 57-year-old Johnson termed the allegations as “totally false” from the pulpit of his church at a news conference last Tuesday. The self-appointed “pope” of his church led friends and family in singing a Christmas carol, and told reporters he would run for another House term in 2018.
But the next day, Johnson posted a Facebook message that asked people to care for his wife, Rebecca. He wrote that PTSD “is a sickness that will take my life, I cannot handle it any longer. It has won this life, BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME.”
State Rep. Wesley Morgan attempted to attend the funeral service, but said the church was so full he couldn’t get in. Morgan said he and Johnson shared an office at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort.
The sexual assault accusations against Johnson came amid a sexual harassment scandal involving four other Republican lawmakers. Former Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned his leadership position Nov. 5 after acknowledging he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a member of his staff. Three other lawmakers were involved in the settlement, and all lost their committee chairmanships.
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