“Ten Commandments judge” Roy Moore wasn’t the only loser Tuesday night. He dragged plenty of leaders and followers of the Religious Right down with him.
Moore’s candidacy was a moral test for the Religious Right. The question was simple: Would the men and women who lead and join groups that are allegedly obsessed with “morals” and “values” continue to back Moore even in the face of credible charges of sexual assault and harassment against teenage girls?
They failed the test spectacularly. Even as accusers against Moore mounted, some people twisted themselves into knots to justify their support for him. One of the more offensive comments came from Jim Zeigler, Alabama’s state auditor. After Leigh Corfman told The Washington Post that she was just 14 when Moore, then 32, assaulted her, Zeigler shrugged it off.
'Family values' crusader James Dobson never wavered in his support of Roy Moore.
“[T]ake Joseph and Mary,” he said. “Mary was a teenager, and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
Others decided that attacking Moore’s victims was the way to go. Bryan Fischer, a columnist for the American Family Association who has made a name for himself by proffering views so extreme they’d make Cotton Mather blush, went after Corfman.
According to Fischer, Corfman “has credibility problems as a witness. She’s gone bankrupt three times, has tangled with the IRS, and has been through three divorces.” (It’s unclear how any of this discredits Corfman. And I know of someone who has had similar problems – Fischer’s hero, President Donald Trump.)
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said that if the allegations against Moore were true, they should disqualify him from the Senate. It was tough talk, but Perkins backed it up with absolutely no action. In fact, FRC’s political action committee had earlier endorsed Moore and didn’t withdraw that support.
But perhaps the person who emerges most tattered from the Moore debacle is James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Let’s take a minute to remember what Dobson became famous for (other than telling parents to beat their children): He is a notorious national scold, the scourge of the LGBTQ community.
Dobson, who now runs a group called Family Talk, has never hesitated to judge anyone who fails to measure up to his narrow, fundamentalist take on morality. Single moms, women who have had abortions, teens grappling with their sexuality, feminists, liberals, free-speech advocates, freethinkers and others all fell under his harsh gaze. Dobson was always quick to judge, to condemn and to fan the flames of hatred and division. (For a taste of this, watch this video Dobson produced after the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on marriage equality. Note the parade of horribles he outlines, none of which have come true.)
So Dobson was furious over Moore’s focus on teens, right? Nope. Not only did Dobson not criticize Moore, he celebrated the man. Dobson personally endorsed Moore and recorded a radio ad for him, during which he lauded Moore as “a man of proven character and integrity.” (Tell that to the girls Moore was allegedly bothering at a Gadsden mall in the late 1970s.)
To be clear, not all conservative religious people lined up behind Moore. David French, formerly an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, blasted Moore in a National Review column. But such sentiments were few and far between, and on the ground, they made little difference: On election night, exit polls showed that 81 percent of white evangelicals in Alabama voted for Moore.
The Religious Right made a calculated decision in this case. It wanted to keep the Alabama Senate seat in Republican hands so badly that its leaders and supporters were willing to back a likely pedophile over a Democrat. You can call that lots of things, but “moral” isn’t one of them.
This incident won’t slow the Religious Right down, of course. The hypocrite brigade will continue to judge and attack others. But they’ve handed those of us who are frequent targets for their outrage a powerful weapon. Their yawing ethical void was fully opened Tuesday night, and all of America could peer into it.
Leaders and followers of the Religious Right may not care to admit it, but they will be stuck with the stench of their own moral decay for many years to come. Let’s make sure no one ever forgets that.