There’s a lot being said about Roy Moore, the 70-year-old Christian, gun-toting hothead of Alabama who recently won the US Senate primary and has been accused by numerous women who say Moore sexually abused them when they were in their teens and Moore was 32. The youngest alleged victim was 14.

What’s also making news is the fact that many people in Alabama have come to Moore’s defense. But not just those who agree with Moore (he claims the alleged victims are lying, it’s a political conspiracy, etc.). We’re also hearing from folks who say that, even if Moore did try to have sex with the girls, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

Add to that, Moore’s supporters in this Bible-belt state are using religion to justify that stance.

One ridiculed comment was made by Alabama’s state auditor, Jim Ziegler who called attention to the fact that, in the Bible, old guys commonly married underage girls. “Take Joseph and Mary,” said Ziegler. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

Putting aside the fact that, in the story, Joseph didn’t groom and have sex with Mary to arrive at Jesus’ birth, it’s important to note just how eager these Christians are to use religious messaging to justify child sexual abuse.

At a political rally for Moore, North Carolina Evangelical Christian pastor Flip Benham openly condoned the former judge’s predilection for teen girls. “There is something about a purity of a young woman,” Benham said.

A recent poll shows that nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians say they’re more likely to vote for Roy Moore now than before the allegations came to light.

Of course, we’ve seen this play out in politics before. Evangelical Christians overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election even after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced. Christian leaders continue to support the president, often appearing in photos with their hands on the man whom numerous women have accused of sexually harassing and assaulting them.

Those Christians have overlooked Trump’s transgressions because supporting him serves their political agenda. In Alabama, however, religious conservatives who support Moore are trying to fulfill an agenda of a different kind—an agenda of power and sexual domination.

To put it another way, they’re supporting Moore because, in the patriarchal waters they swim in, normalizing child sexual abuse perpetuates a self-serving perception that boys and men are superior to, and should be able to control, girls and women. It’s one reason why men dating teenage girls isn’t uncommon in Evangelical Christian communities.

Ross Douthat writes in the New York Times that sexual predators “flourish among the godly and moralistic and traditional.” He points out that one such type of predator is “the rotten patriarch. This is the man who depends on the trappings of spiritual or familial authority to exploit the young and weak, shame them into silence, and pre-emptively discredit them.” Douthat goes on to say:

The rotten patriarch might be anyone from a handsy pastor or a lecherous pillar of the community to the leader of a sect or religious order. And in the defenses of Moore from various Alabama Republicans you can see the way conservative impulses protect this kind of figure — both in the suggestion that a man of his religious reputation should be trusted over his accusers, and in the risible invocation of Biblical examples to defend an older man’s lust for a 14-year-old girl.

And when you have a religious text that is revered—a text written when women and children were considered property—it’s no wonder that these “rotten patriarchs” wasted no time reaching for the Bible to justify Roy Moore’s alleged crimes. (The legal age of consent in Alabama is 16, as it was when Moore was alleged to have preyed on the teens.)

In her blog post, Valerie Tarico explains that Moore’s alleged abuses were, in fact, “perfectly biblical.” She points out that, in the Bible, young women are commonly given to older men, females are created for the benefit of males, rape is a violation (not against a woman but against her male owner), and female consent is not “a thing.”

Since this blog post was first published, more evidence about Moore’s predatory behavior has surfaced. The number of women who have come forward has grown. (As of November 16, it’s up to 9.) We’ve learned that Moore was banned from a mall for making a nuisance of himself trolling for teenage girls. 

But even with these revelations, support for Moore among Evangelicaks has hardly wilted, even among women. As Alabama resident Pamela Hicks told the New York Times, Moore is “led by God, and that’s all that matters.”

“Roy Moore has made his choice,” writes Valerie Tarico. “You can call him disgusting or vile or sexist, but don’t use the word hypocrite. Moore is living the script.”

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Janet Heimlich is an award-winning journalist and the author of "Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment," the first book to fully examine the issue of child abuse and neglect enabled by religious belief. In 2012, Janet founded the Child-Friendly Faith Project whose mission is to share knowledge and build community around the issue of religious child maltreatment (RCM) and advocate for and empower those whose lives are impacted by RCM. She also sits on the board of directors of Foundation Beyond Belief and co-hosts the podcast, "Parenting Beyond Belief." Prior to becoming a child advocate, Janet was a freelance reporter for National Public Radio, work for which she won numerous journalism awards; she has also written nonfiction articles for such publications as Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer.


  1. Christa Brown
    November 29, 2017

    “Take Joseph and Mary … They became parents of Jesus.” Reminds me of how the Baptist preacher who abused me would always say that it was all part of “God’s plan” and, if I expressed doubts or hesitated to comply, he would chastise me, saying “Where would we all be now if Mary had refused God’s will?” So, the twisted sort of “religious messaging” used by Ziegler and other evangelicals to justify abuse actually mimics the “religious messaging” that is often used by Baptist preacher predators to perpetrate abuse. And however ridiculous it may seem to me now, that “religious messaging” held a heckuva lot of power over me as a kid raised in the fish barrel of Baptistland.

  2. Janet Heimlich
    November 18, 2017

    An interesting op-ed came out today in the New York Times, written by a law professor at the University of Alabama. William S. Brewbaker III regrets that so many Evangelicals are defending Moore, and cites the Bible in telling them that they are wrong to support Moore. But not once does he mention concern for Moore’s victims. (I no longer say “alleged victims” now that a pattern of sexual abuse has been so well established.)

  3. November 17, 2017

    Excellent article. If only more people realized how much harm religion does our children.

  4. Robert Cogan
    November 16, 2017

    I suspect if an analysis of the religious composition of those participants in the “Satanic Panics” was available, and of the American trolls who, this past election cycle, have been passing on malicious, unfounded gossip, we’d find that they are similar to that of Moore’s supporters: evangelicals. Ironic: the proponents of the Good News should be also principal bearers of false witness.

  5. November 16, 2017

    Evangelical fundamentalists aka Dominionists and reconstructionists are finally getting the attention that is needed. There are 48,000,000 of them in the US. They were born into Christian Fundamentalism or converted into it. This is a cult that has always been used by the elite to control the masses. JP Morgan et al funded Dwight Moody’s revivals just as similar men funded Billy Graham. Fundamentalist preachers taught corporate values as religious values. Basically, if your children are hungry don’t blame Robber Barons, look within yourself. Christ is the answer not a living wage. From birth children are taught to shun the evil world and to fight Satan in America. Satan being freedom and democracy for all. They are brainwashed to believe the bible is God’s word that the must read literally and obey or they will burn in hell. They are taught to obey. ALL authority figures and to defend war and genocide as divine as they prepare for Armageddon. Victims in this cult do not realize they have been brainwashed to believe that Yahweh , a tribal war god, is their god and savior. They are unaware they have been indoctrinated to accept and follow sociopaths/psychopaths who resemble Yahweh, and often their own harsh authoritarian parents. They are brainwashed to think and act like sociopaths/psychopaths. This stuff came with the Puritans and evolved with the Great Awakenings and with Moody and Billy Graham and their ilk. An uneducated man Moody created hodgepodge ideology that enabled him to lead many to Christ… A Christ that spoke for the elite. These people created the WASP middle class that functioned as a buffer between the exploitive elite and working class. Never has it been based on the golden rule. It had always been a system of control and exploitation… psychopathy. Now with their undying support of Trump normal citizens are beginning to wonder who they are and why they are idiots. Actually, they are not idiots. They are under the influence of religious mind control. This is why they sweep everything psychopaths do under the rug….or under the blood of Christ. They are mentally I’ll. Most have compartmentalized minds because this is what cults create in followers for control. They are being manipulated by voices for the elite but are unaware. They have been programmed to destroy America and the evil world. They are incapable of throwing on the brakes. That is why the rest of us have got to understand who they are, what had been done to them, and to throw on the brakes of their runaway train. It is no accidents that the current administration is filled with these people who are dismantling our government and condoning endless war. References: Battle for the Mind, William Sargant, MD; the evangelicals by Francis Fitzgerald; One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Created Christian America by Kevin Kruse; Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God;
    The Family by Jeff Sharlet; American Fascists by Chris Hedges.
    In 1947 I had the great misfortune to be born into this stuff and became fully indoctrinated. In 1994 a surgery triggered a massive and complete breakdown. It took 10 years of intense therapy to recover control of my own mind. And another 10 to break the rest of the mind control. My memoir describes how many innocent children are brainwashed…often by the very people they love and trust the most. Shattered Diana:. A Memoir Documenting How Trauma and Evangelical Fundamentalism Created PTSD, Bipolar, and DID (Multiple Personality) in Me by Diana Lee. MA. We have to stop the hijacking of children’s minds.

  6. david cunningham green
    November 16, 2017

    The ancient Greeks regarded faith as the lowest type of thought. Most of us realise that belief is purely unfounded wishful thinking. One day the crime/’sin’ that is religious belief and practice will be defeated, but sadly not in the lifetime of the next 1000 generations but nevertheless the fight must go on

  7. Daniel Shea
    November 16, 2017

    Quite right. In 1630 Roger Williams, an Oxford educated attorney and “Baptist,” joined Governor Winthrop’s “shining city on a hill” in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In six years, he came to know the the terrors of theocracy, refused to shut his mouth about it, and was banished and expelled from MA in mid-winter 1636. After nearly dying on a 40 mile trek in the freezing wilderness, he ended up in the care of the Massasoit Native Americans from whom he invested in and formed a new colony called “Providence Plantations.” In six more years, he managed to return to England, write a phonetic “Indian” to English dictionary, and secure from King and Parliament a charter for a new Colony in the Americas, “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” From ca. 1646 to the ratification of the US Constitution, it was the only colony that did not have a state sponsored church (mostly Anglican) and made no mention of “God” in its Providence Compact until that stance of church state separation was adopted in the U.S. Constitution. What Moore and his fellow God Squad in Texas are all about is theocracy based on a Calvinist Model. Oddly, Williams was a Baptist of the variety that sought strict church-state separation and gained support for that position from President Thomas Jefferson in the now famous “Letters to the Baptists of Danbury (CT).” Thus, Moore and his ilk are not true Baptists but Trojan Horse Calvinist Theocrats who have infected the Baptist tradition. It strives for power, money, and sex.

    This transformation proves Williams’s contention in his famous book, “The Bloody Tenant,” that when the “Wall that Separates Church and State” (Williams term) is lowered, both church and state reciprocally corrupt each other. The church becomes a lackey of the state (the Constantinian capture) and the state an idolator of the church (Moore, ISIL, etc.). The good people in Alabama need to read their history and perhaps visit the First Baptist Church in America, founded by Williams, located on the campus of Brown University in Providence, RI. There they will find their roots. Not in Roy Moore.

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