LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Kentucky legislator that the death came a day after vehemently denying allegations of sexual abuse was remembered at the church where he preached and took a public stand against the allegations of misconduct.
Family and friends of Dan Johnson gathered for his funeral in the Heart of the Fire the church on Monday where the crowd was so great that a legislator who shared an office with Johnson in the state Capitol in Frankfort was not able to get into the small stone church.
A pastor and friend of the legislator, R. Z. Miller, told reporters afterwards that “the spirt of the Lord.”
Outside, a cold, light rain fell with leather-clad motorcyclists revved their bikes in their own tribute to Johnson.
The day after he denied the allegations of assault of a teenage girl at a press conference, the 57-year-old Republican lawmaker’s body was found along a secluded road with what Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Johnson’s church is proud of the welcome of “real people”. David Adams, a political operative who worked with Johnson on his campaign, had called it a “biker ” church” with “a lot of leather jackets, lots of long hair and the people that if you met on the street, maybe you have a different first impression.”
Many of those bikers came to pay tribute to Johnson on Monday. They revved their engines after the ceremony, and joined the procession after the legislature body of a cemetery.
The only media outlet apparently in the service WDRB-TV. WDRB reported that the service started with singing, and Johnson, the son of Judah, was the first to speak to the crowd.
“Anyone who knew my father knew that he was talking about freedom, and freedom from the power of sin and death and all of the above, and if that is the case, this is a party,” he said.
Miller said Johnson’s children participated in the service, and said: “She has to show the world what really was taught in their home, and that was a love of God.”
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 almost a century. During the campaign, he defied calls from Republican leaders for him to get out of the race after media reported on a number of Johnson’s Facebook posts comparing President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to monkeys.
As a freshman legislator, Johnson sponsored bills that have to do with the freedom of religion, and the teaching of the Bible in the public schools, but he was largely out of the spotlight.
That ended a week ago, when the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an account of a woman who said Johnson sexually assaulted her in the basement of the church fellowship hall in 2013. The police investigated the incident but closed the case and not file charges.
Johnson called the allegations as “utterly false” from the pulpit of the church of last Tuesday. The self-appointed “pope” of his church led family and friends in the singing of a christmas carol, and told reporters that 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 disease that is my life, I can’t deal with it any longer. They won this life, BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME.”
The allegations of sexual abuse against Johnson came in the middle of a sexual harassment scandal involving four other Republican lawmakers in Kentucky. The former Republican House of representatives Jeff Hoover resigned his leadership position Nov. 5 after receipt of that he secretly settled sexual harassment claim with a member of his staff. Three other legislators were involved in the settlement, and lost their committee chairmanship.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.