In the lifetime of this blog, we’ve talked often about how hypocritical the most fervent Christians always turn out to be. We’ve established many times that hypocrisy isn’t a fluke or aberration of the religion but an absolutely inevitable outcome of its various teachings. In the wake of some absolutely explosive new allegations against one of Christianity’s most valiant culture warriors, we turn our attention once again to this simple fact. Roy Moore is and always has been a hypocrite, it seems, and yet somehow Jesus never told any of his large number of supporters about his serious flaws. Today I’ll sum up the Roy Moore situation, and then next time we’ll outline why the accusations against Roy Moore are quite credible–being as they are a natural outgrowth of the standard-issue fundagelical worldview.
A Fundagelical’s Fundagelical.
[Roy] Moore isn’t simply a bigot; he’s a theocratic scofflaw who has repeatedly put his fundamentalist religious views above the rule of law, and who has used the power of his office to flout the authority of judicial opinions. He is more Joe Arpaio than Anita Bryant.
Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast, September 27, 2017
Roy Moore is a prototypical good ol’ Southern boy who considers himself a Southern Baptist. He’s never heard a Christian catchphrase that he didn’t like, nor a fundagelical talking point that he didn’t believe. According to J. Wayne Flynt, a history professor from Alabama who specializes in the state’s history and seems like a decent chap, Roy Moore is “a theocrat” who’s been pandering to fundagelicals since “Vietnam, if not earlier,” adding that “if Roy [Moore] were governor of Alabama, he’d post the Ten Commandments on every building.”
A few brief examples of just how bad it gets: Moore buys into the long-debunked “birther” conspiracy that even Donald Trump is reluctant to talk about anymore, thinks that homosexuality is comparable to bestiality, thinks that terrorists are attacking Americans because we’re no longer TRUE CHRISTIANS™ (like he is), thinks it’s cool to dress like he’s in a Texas-themed pornographic movie, once nonchalantly pulled a freakin’ gun out of his pants pocket during a campaign speech to demonstrate that he’s a proper TRUE CHRISTIAN™ ammosexual like his fanbase, and is of course a stone-cold racist who wore full cowboy kit and rode an honest-to-goodness horse to the voting booths to reinforce his image as a proper TRUE CHRISTIAN™ cowboy lawmaker.
And hoo-BOY, do fundagelicals ADORE this guy! He is their One True Pairing!
Whenever he appears, they start hearing “Dream Weaver” in their heads.
Most non-fundagelicals probably know about Roy Moore (prior to today’s headlines from The Washington Post) because he’s the Christian fanatic judge who, some years ago, illegally snuck a “Ten Commandments” statue that he’d designed and commissioned onto taxpayer-funded property back in 2001, sparking a legal fight that lasted two years and ended with his removal from his elected position.
That wasn’t Moore’s first rodeo, though.
Back in 1995, the ACLU had sued him for hanging a “hand-carved plaque of the Ten Commandments behind his bench” as a county circuit court judge. He was also in the habit of opening his court sessions with prayers, and that obviously was also illegal. A judge who outranked him successfully got him to quit praying in public like that, but after a court battle the plaque Moore had made and hung up stayed right where it was. A fundagelical prayer warrior couldn’t possibly have asked for a more dramatic success.
This win gave him quite a lot of street cred with fundagelicals in Alabama, who responded by pushing him to prominence right at a time when their culture wars were heating up–to their detriment. The involvement of the American Civil Liberties Union didn’t hurt at all–the ACLU was no longer considered the friend of fringe religious groups (as it was seen in my day as a fundagelical lass), instead quickly becoming a hated and feared enemy for Christian culture warriors. Roy Moore took them all on, and he won, at least in some small way, against his tribe’s chosen enemies.
A Potent Reminder About Fanatics.
Listen and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Kyle Reese, Terminator
It was inevitable that Roy Moore would push harder against his ideological enemies now that he’d gotten a small win under his belt. See, that’s just how fundagelicals are. If they win any amount of territory, they will fight until they have it all. They will not be satisfied with anything less than everything.
That’s why there can be no reasoning or bargaining with fanatics and zealots, particularly not when they think they’re on a roll. Roy Moore’s greed had been whetted. It was guaranteed that he’d try to do something bigger and more dramatic next time, and that, my friends, is exactly what happened.
Shortly after winning election there to his first go-round as Alabama Chief Justice in 2001, he almost immediately installed on taxpayer-funded land a Ten Commandments monument that he’d designed and bought for that purpose. He didn’t even think, it seems, about how many hungry or homeless people might have been fed with the money he spent on this trite eyesore. Something far more important was at stake for him than following his sourcebook’s commands–not to mention something way more real.1
He snuck the idol into the rotunda without telling the other eight justices about it–though he did invite a Christian ministry to come film him doing it, which demonstrates that he totally knew what he was doing was as out of bounds with his professional peers as it was awesome to his religious fanbase. They were his real masters, not his fellow judges; he didn’t care what the other judges would think, only what his tribe would.
At the time, he gave a speech which said, in part, “To restore morality we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs.” He lambasted those in government who “forbid teaching your children that they are created in the image of Almighty God,” declared that “God gave us our rights,” and reminded his fans that he’d always promised to “restore the moral foundation of law” to Alabama– which meant enshrining their kind of Christianity into law as far as they possibly could.
It was a fundagelical’s playlist of Top 40 Lies-for-Jesus, and he knew his audience would lap up every dishonest word he said.
A lawsuit popped up quickly to force Roy Moore to remove the idol. Naturally Moore fought it tooth and nail (almost certainly by wasting taxpayer dollars). He lost the following year (2012)–because these sorts of religious wackadoodle stunts are definitely seen by any reasonable person as endorsing Christianity. Moore was ordered to remove the monument, but he refused. Even when his fellow judges demanded that he remove it on the grounds of having to follow the law whether they like the law or not, Moore still refused. He filed appeals like mad with whoever he could, but the appeals failed or were rejected all the way up to the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) level.
It wasn’t until that US District Judge who’d ruled against him threatened to fine him USD$5,000 for every day that the monument remained on taxpayer land that whatever support he had from the Alabama State Attorney General and the Alabama Governor evaporated. He and his many supporters had one last big grandstanding session ringing all around it–some even getting arrested for their defiance.
After the US District Judge’s deadline (August 20, 2003) came and went without the monument being removed, Moore was suspended from duty when the state’s Senate Judiciary Commission (made up of judges, lawyers, and other highfalutin’ legal eagles in the state) found he’d violated “six canons of ethics for disobeying a federal court order to move the monument.” Some Christians who mistakenly believed that the United States had been “founded upon Jesus Christ” filed lawsuits trying to argue that removing the monument constituted a violation of their right to free expression of religion. These suits failed. The monument finally left the rotunda on August 27, 2003, heading for its new home at CrossPoint Community Church in Gadsden, Alabama.
Eventually, in November 2003, Roy Moore was removed formally from office by the unanimous decision by the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee. To the very end, he framed this legal fight as occurring because he was just that fervent of a Christian–and just too hardcore-for-Jesus for his fellow Christians in office to stand. He never apologized for wasting taxpayer dollars, nor for defying United States law. In his eyes, he’d done neither.
Roy Moore ran for Alabama Governor a couple times after that indignity, in 2006 and 2010, but lost both times. He flirted with the idea of running for President of the United States at least once, but decided against it. He just couldn’t forget the feel of power, I guess.
In 2012, he popped back up again when he got elected to his second go-round on Alabama’s Supreme Court. When he was sworn in, he declared “We’ve got to remember that most of what we do in court comes from some scripture or is backed by scripture,” which was a dogwhistle that was heard loud and clear by his supporters. He’d punish the people fundagelicals hated, and he’d reward his tribe with the power they all felt they deserved. He was their homunculus, their grease golem, their giant stick to beat infidels with.
You know those kids in middle school who act like class clowns because it’s the only way they can achieve any sense of validation? Who’ll eat bugs on command if it gets them any attention from the cool kids? That’s Roy Moore. He’s found his stride in being a bigot-for-Jesus. He acts as his tribe’s id by acting out like they wish they could act out. And now that he’d discovered what impressed the cool kids, his outrageous behavior escalated.
His Last Big Stand.
Things seemed pretty quiet for a couple of years at the national level at least, after that episode of histrionic grandstanding at his swearing-in in 2013–except for a failed attempt to gather an honest-to-goodness constitutional convention to try to create a new Article to the Constitution barring same-sex marriage and the publishing online of some doggerel
drivel poetry he wrote viciously attacking women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. As the marriage equality culture war reached its crescendo, he could be counted upon to cause drama in his quest for fundagelical dominance. Besides his affection for terrible-looking stone and wooden idols, you see, one of Roy Moore’s other bees-in-the-bonnet is same-sex marriage. And as you likely know, fundagelicals were cruising straight toward losing that culture war fight at the time.
So in 2015, right about when Kim Davis was hitting the news nationwide as a fundagelical heroine for refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples in her neck of the woods in Kentucky, Roy Moore decided to step into that ring himself when a federal judge found his state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional and overturned it.
Roy Moore unilaterally decided that federal judges weren’t allowed to
disagree with him overturn state-level laws, and refused to bend the knee. He referred to the ruling that overturned Alabama’s law as “judicial tyranny,” which is what fundagelicals always say about laws that stop them from doing the illegal stuff they always want to do–like discriminating against their enemies, punishing and retaliating against those who defy them, and forcing unconsenting bystanders to participate in (and ideally, if at all possible, somehow be forced to pay for) their religious showboating.
A few days later, the watchdog group Southern Poverty Law Center asked the Judicial Inquiry Commission to look into Roy Moore’s history of rulebreaking. Moore, undeterred, told his state’s judges that they were totally allowed to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And he talked at length about the topic on a Christian talk radio show, showing anybody who cared to investigate the matter that he held federal law in complete contempt and was very open about his ultimate intentions: creating nothing less than a Christian theocracy in America.
But he could tell that the writing was on the wall on that legal fight. He resigned the Alabama Supreme Court before he could be removed a second time from the same office. According to Alabama law, he was now–at 70 years old–too old to pursue yet another run at the state’s Supreme Court.
But he had his sights set higher than even that lofty position.
He wanted a seat on the United States Senate.
The Senate Run.
In a lot of ways, the Senate race in Alabama that just took place was seen as a sort of referendum on the general topic of Donald Trump. Roy Moore beat out Donald Trump’s hand-picked candidate Luther Strange, the Republican incumbent, in a primary runoff on September 26. He is officially the Republican candidate running against Democratic candidate Doug Jones (a former U.S. Attorney). Worth noting is that Steve Bannon, Trump’s disgraced and exiled golden child, backed Moore to the hilt.
There were a lot of reasons why Moore might have beaten Strange, not the least of which was that Strange might have been way too closely associated with Robert Bentley, the former governor who had appointed Strange to office before being forced to leave his own office due to a sex scandal, while Moore was seen as a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ culture warrior by the residents of one of the nation’s most dysfunctional states. Plus, maybe there was some buyer’s remorse over Donald Trump by then–definitely that’s been pegged as one reason why so many Democrats swept the recent election in other states.
The formal Senate election in Alabama is going to be held on December 12, and before today, Doug Jones was already getting some buzz about potentially winning a seat in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the United States Senate since 1997. The fact that Moore’s solidly so far refused to debate Jones has raised some eyebrows, but it probably wasn’t going to damage his chances.
Then today happened.
The Washington Post (WaPo) broke the news first: a woman named Leigh Corfman claimed that Roy Moore had tried to embark on a sexual relationship with her when she was only fourteen years old. In fact, WaPo found several more women with strikingly similar stories. The oldest of the women had been 18 when approached by him.
Ms. Corfman said that she’d gone to the courthouse with her mother because her mother needed to deal with a child custody hearing. Moore saw the girl sitting on a waiting bench outside with her mother, introduced himself as an assistant district attorney, and offered to babysit the child so her mother could attend the hearing without potentially traumatizing her daughter. The mother accepted without reservation. It didn’t even occur to her that a 30-something-year-old district attorney might do anything to hurt her child.
That somewhat-innocent beginning turned into a nightmare for the girl involved, who says she was molested by Moore before finally summoning the courage to firmly reject his advances. Thankfully, she says, he acquiesced and took her home. At the time, according to WaPo, the term for someone who did what Moore is alleged to have done is sexual abuse in the second degree and sexual contact. These are, respectively, a Class C Felony (see section 13A-6-67 of that link) and a potential Class A Misdemeanor. Plus, ya know, it’s really really skeevy especially in a guy who swans around like the second coming of Jesus. (“He’s BACK… and he’s PISSED.”)
Worse, several other women made markedly similar claims. Moore allegedly plied one girl with cheap wine, singled out one potential victim after speaking to her school’s civics class, and met one while she was working as a “Santa’s helper” at a mall. None of the victims say they know any of the other victims and none of them were the first to contact WaPo. WaPo’s people had to find all of them themselves. The whole thing started with good old-fashioned journalism: someone was in Alabama researching a story about Moore’s supporters and happened to hear a rumor that Moore had a habit of seeking out the company of underaged girls. It took weeks to track down and then interview the women presented in the breaking story.
The journalists covering this story also talked to the family members and acquaintances of the women making these accusations, and it sounds like everyone remembers events pretty much like the women themselves do. In other words, it all checks out. This net is tightening around Roy Moore even harder than the one he keeps trying to put around women’s bodily rights.
Roy Moore, of course, denies the allegations vehemently and brushes them off as politically-motivated attacks (a topic I’m sure he is extremely familiar with) with no merit. He insists that if this story was true, surely it would all have come out long ago. That is easily one of the most self-incriminating denials I’ve ever seen–especially in light of how long even the most serious crimes go before exposure in Alabama alone. Regardless, Moore remains completely defiant and chest-thumpy (and also apparently unaware of the fact that Barack Obama is no longer President).
In response, a reporter for WaPo, Beth Reinhard, has said that the news outlet didn’t have any contact with the Democratic Party–and that the women they found were initially not certain it’d be safe to share their stories. Ms. Reinhard says the young women were disgusted by the dark side of Roy Moore–and by his hypocrisy, which ultimately overcame their fear.
See, he’s always presented himself as a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ crusader, but at the same exact time as he was crusading the hardest in his tribe’s culture war, (the WaPo story alleges) he was out scoping for teenagers to molest at the mall. These women knew that Moore wouldn’t face prison time, what with the statutes of limitations involved and all, but still felt it was important to come forward before he gets his hands on national-level power.
An Overflowing Bucket of Slime.
After what sure looks like Roy Moore’s dogged attempts to score teenage poontang, the worst part of the fallout may well be that the fundagelicals who support Roy Moore won’t, ultimately, care about what crimes their hero has committed. As Christina Cauterucci has put it over at Slate.com, “The capacity of Republican voters to overlook and justify credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault cannot be overstated.”
And there’s a reason for that tendency.
It’s scary how much power this wingnut has managed to gather for himself–not to mention how much power he gleefully wields over others (in that rally where he pulled out a gun, he got loud and thrilled cheers from the audience—listen for yourself). It’s a power he is not bashful about using. If he could institute a total theocracy in America today, he’d do it in a heartbeat because he is the American Taliban’s spokesmodel. He doesn’t understand that The Handmaid’s Tale is a warning, not an instruction booklet for the Religious Right.
Moore’s fanbase would only be happier with their hero if they knew just how much his fellow Alabama Republicans despise him. That, too, feeds into the fundagelical worldview. They won’t notice or care about the many scandals he accrues. Indeed, from his sketchy financial misdeeds to his habit of accepting donations from Nazis, his new scandals are just drops in an overflowing bucket.
And this is where outsiders to fundagelical culture might find themselves at a loss to understand how someone like Roy Moore rockets to prominence and how he stays there. He is the real deal reason why anyone with sense opposes fundagelical entanglement in our government. In our species’ collective subconscious dictionary under “jackhole-for-Jesus,” he’s noted as an ur-example of the breed. I’m hard-pressed to think of anybody who is a more illustrative example of the saying spotted on Atheist Republic’s Twitter feed:
“If you don’t like your religion’s fundamentalists, maybe there’s something wrong with your religion’s fundamentals.”
Often we hear Christians use phrases like “Christian virtues” to describe what they view as ideals of behavior uniquely held and attainable only by fundagelical TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like themselves. And in a funny way, they’re right. There really are some patterns of behavior that one doesn’t find in too many places besides extremist religion. They’re just not what most of us would call virtuous, but they do indeed form a constellation of beliefs and ideologies that, together, produce a group as purely toxic as Roy Moore and his pals.
Having finished with our overview of Roy Moore’s Greatest Hits, we’re going to plunge into those fundamental virtues next time–and I hope you’ll join me! See you then–
1 Fundagelicals are way more tolerant of dishonesty and sneaking around than one would expect to find in a group that at least pretends to believe that lying is a sin, though to their credit the Bible isn’t very consistent on that point. The character of Jesus is shown as lying freely and frequently, just like his supposed supernatural father.