January 2018 Church & State | Editorial

Despite his claim to be a fan of the Ten Commandments, Alabama’s Roy Moore is hardly a paragon of virtue. Moore sees himself as above the law and has twice been removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to follow rulings of higher courts.

Moore is also accused of looting a non-profit group he created to promote “moral law,” asserting that he wasn’t taking a salary from the organization when, in fact, he was – a big one at that.

But most disturbingly, allegations surfaced during Moore’s recent U.S. Senate race that he preyed on teenage girls, one as young as 14, when he was in his 30s. Several women came forward with credible stories about Moore approaching teens for dates and assaulting them.

Moore lied about his connections to these women. On the campaign trail, he insisted that he didn’t even know them. That fell apart when one woman produced a hand-signed card Moore gave her when she graduated from high school, matching other Moore signatures on other documents.

None of this mattered to Alabama’s white evangelicals, 81 percent of whom supported Moore in a Dec. 12 special election for a U.S. Sen­ate seat – a race Moore narrowly lost to Democrat Doug Jones.

As the allegations swirled around Moore, Religious Right leaders and supporters of these groups tied themselves in knots to explain why they were continuing to back a suspected pedophile.

Much of what was said was deep­ly offensive. Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler asserted that Moore’s tendency to chase young girls was no big deal because Mary was young when she gave birth to Jesus.

Others simply ignored the charges. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and a notorious scold who has never hesitated to attack others for their sexual behavior, did a radio ad for Moore in which he called Moore “a man of proven character and integrity.”

Religious Right leaders looked at this situation and made a calculated decision to back Moore in spite of the charges. They did this because they did not want the Republican Party to lose a seat in the Senate. They put political power over principle.

It wasn’t the first time. Religious Right groups and their far-right evangelical supporters did the same thing in 2016 when they decided to stick with Donald Trump, despite the release of the Access Hollywood videotape of Trump boasting about how easy it is to sexually assault women when you’re famous.

For decades, leaders and members of the Religious Right have been quick to judge anyone who fails to measure up to their narrow “moral” standard. They have assailed members of the LGBTQ community, single mothers, feminists, non-believers, political progressives and others.

The Religious Right has claimed that it wants to purify strains of what it considers to be immorality in Am­erican society. That is bad enough. Many of the people labeled “immoral” by the Religious Right hadn’t done anything wrong except run afoul of some meddling would-be theocrat’s narrow interpretation of the Bible. They had no desire to be “purified.”

Now we find – surprise! – that the Religious Right didn’t even mean it. For all its talk about “biblical morality” and “Christian values,” the move­ment didn’t hesitate to line up behind a man who, according to some accounts, was banned from a shopping mall in Alabama for bothering teenage girls. This is evidence of a movement shot through with moral bankruptcy.

If nothing else, this pathetic turn of events has given opponents of the Religious Right powerful ammunition for use in the future. The case of Roy Moore was a moral test for the Religious Right. Not only did these groups fail it miserably, they didn’t even try to pass it. Not one group hesitated to throw its support behind Moore and at least one of them, the American Family Association, tried to discredit the women Moore had assaulted. We should not hesitate to remind Religious Right activists of this at every opportunity.

When the story of Moore’s behavior broke, Republican leaders in Washington talked about the possibility of not seating him if he won and temporarily cut off money to his campaign. But that didn’t last. They soon re-embraced Moore and turned the money spigot back on. They are morally culpable as well.

Moore is a spectacularly ineffective figure. He would have been a train wreck as a senator because, at the end of the day, he’s little more than a showboating blowhard, not a serious public policy advocate.

Moore and the Religious Right deserve each other. Here’s hoping we’ve seen the last of both.

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