Whose Values?

Whose Values?
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<p>Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Alabama's Senate seat</p>

Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Alabama's Senate seat

NBC News

When did evangelicals — supposed followers of the Bible’s strict code on sexuality, among many other things — decide to check their beliefs outside the polling booth? Now, I know it is a secret ballot, but if you believe God is all-knowing, then the omniscient deity must be watching even in the voting booth.

This is not an idle question, given a recent poll finding that 37 percent of Alabama evangelicals are more likely to vote for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore following allegations of sexual misconduct — including molesting a minor — against him. Only 28 percent of evangelicals say the allegations make them less likely to vote for Moore, while 34 percent say the reports make no difference in their decision.

The response of evangelicals is even more curious given that the allegations against Moore are more serious than the run-of-the-mill charges of adultery that often bring down politicians. Nor are the accusations comparable to the Harvey Weinstein gross groping of women and exhibitionism. No, the allegations against the Bible-thumping, Ten Commandments-displaying Moore include inappropriate touching of a child and coercing her to touch his genitals. Leigh Corfman told The Washington Post, “I wasn’t ready for that — I had never put my hand on a man’s penis, much less an erect one.” Of course not, since she was only 14 at the time. In 1979, when Corfman says the incident occurred, the legal age of consent in Alabama was 16, as it is now. It is worth remembering that Anthony Weiner, former Democratic congressman from New York, is serving time in jail for sexting a minor, not touching her.

The age of consent was raised in the rather odd biblical justification provided by Jim Ziegler, the state auditor of Alabama, who told The Washington Examiner that Moore’s touching of Corfman is no big deal since it mimics the story of the “parents” of Jesus. “Take Joseph and Mary,” Ziegler explained. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became the parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Roy Moore may be a little disenchanted with Ziegler’s defense, since it seems to take the allegation by Corfman as true, only to dismiss it as no big deal. But, of course, it is a big deal, since Corfman was a minor. Plus, Ziegler’s skill at biblical exegesis is a bit lacking. He seems unaware of the circumstances of the birth of Jesus that suggest Joseph’s contact with Mary was, well, rather innocent.

Citing the Bible to justify modern behavior is always precarious, since consistency would require the return of stoning for a whole host of actions that are no longer considered crimes, not to mention sanctioning slavery and one man with multiple wives. And, two millennia ago, girls were sold as child brides for the equivalent value of sheep. That is not an inspiration for modern male-female relationships.

A good deal of the evangelical excusing of Moore is of the blame-the-messenger variety. Breitbart’s Steve Bannon wondered if it was “a coincidence” that The Washington Post “dropped the dime” on Donald Trump with release of the Access Hollywood tape and also “dropped the dime… on Judge Roy Moore?” The candidate agrees. “These allegations came only four-and-a-half weeks before the election.” Moore said. “That’s not a coincidence. It’s an intentional act to stop a campaign.” Moore suggests the accusers — including three women who claim Moore tried to date them when they were teenagers — are trying deliberately to sabotage him.

Moore threatens to sue the Post, and Breitbart is investigating Corfman and three other women to prove, one supposes, that the report is a put-up job. But, any careful reading of the original story reveals the reporting to be well-sourced and air-tight. The Post has made it clear, both in its original story and subsequent reporting, that the accusers did not seek out the newspaper. Rather, while in Alabama to write a story on Moore’s Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard allegations about Moore’s pursuit of underage girls. Based on that information, the reporter contacted the women and interviewed them multiple times.

Moore’s threat to sue the Post is probably as serious as President’s Trump’s vow to take legal action against his accusers. That is not the only similarity between the two, for Trump, like Moore, is beloved by evangelicals, who appear more-than-willing to overlook Trump’s less-than-obvious religiosity. Senior White House officials tell Politico the president never prays in the Oval Office and does not reference the Bible. Trump reportedly swears frequently. He, infamously, was caught on tape saying he could grab women by their genitals because he is famous. In New York City, he notoriously encouraged the tabloids to detail his sex life. Trump claims the Bible is his favorite book, but he appears to lack any knowledge of it, having referred, for example, to Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians.”

Yet, Trump retains the backing of two-thirds of white evangelical Christians. Trump’s explanation for this support is simple. “The Christians, they know what I’m doing for them, right?” he says. Evangelicals agree. “Trump has been focused like a laser beam on the evangelical vote since the day he entered the presidential race in June 2015, and that has never changed," said Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Reed cites the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, Trump’s public opposition to abortion, and his support of Israel as actions pleasing to evangelicals.

At some point, so-called values voters decided that values no longer matter, at least not when describing the personal lives of voters. Or, at least not when describing the values of right-wing Republicans. As for Democrats, well, that is another matter.

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