ARTICLE

Every Other Terrible Thing About Roy Moore

by Katherine Stewart, The New York Times, November 20, 2017

Before we say goodbye to Roy Moore — I’m being optimistic here — let’s remember what this is all about. Yes, we’ve learned that a sizable contingent of voters will favor a sexual predator over a Democrat. But we already knew that from the 2016 presidential election.

The real shocker is that many Republicans enthusiastically endorsed a candidate who shows contempt for the Constitution and proposes to replace our democracy with a theocratic state.

Even if we had never learned about Mr. Moore’s alleged attack on a 14-year-old girl, isn’t this scandal enough?

Mr. Moore denies the allegation of molestation and many others, and calls himself simply “a Christian.” But Christianity is an extremely diverse religion, and Mr. Moore represents just one version of it. Unfortunately, his is a faction that has come to wield enormous influence within the Republican Party.

We all know by now how Mr. Moore feels about gay people. In a 2002 opinion that he wrote when he was a state judge, he characterized same-sex relationships as “abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this nation and our laws are predicated.”

But what’s even more broadly consequential is that Mr. Moore denies the authority of the United States government to legislate at all on this and other issues that he imagines have been decided by God.

He maintains, preposterously, that the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment is solely intended to protect Christians and Christianity.

He doesn’t merely oppose Muslim candidates. He once said that non-Christians like Keith Ellison had no right to hold elective office. “The Islamic faith rejects our God,” he said. “Ellison cannot swear an oath on the Quran and an allegiance to the Constitution at the same time.”

Mr. Moore pretends to admire the Constitution, yet he treats it with disdain. He has been removed from office not once, but twice, for refusing to comply with orders from the United States judiciary.

He believes that God’s law (as he sees it) trumps the Constitution every time.

That is what it means to be a theocrat, and that is why some of the most outspoken theocrats in America love Roy Moore. We need to take a close look at the kind of people hoping to ride Roy Moore’s coattails to power.

One of Mr. Moore’s staunchest allies is Janet Porter, a radio personality and anti-abortion activist. Ms. Porter hosted last week’s news conference in support of his flailing candidacy, which seemed more like a religious revival than a political event. “I’m glad you got more church than you probably had in the last 10 years,” she told the assembled press corps.

Ms. Porter used the language of Dominionists when she organized a prayer rally in 2010 to “repent on how we have turned against God in every area of influence: 1) business, 2) government, 3) media, 4) arts and entertainment, 5) education, 6) the family, and 7) religion, and invite God back into each one.” She wants to impeach Supreme Court justices for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Political careers depend on money, of course, and Mr. Moore has picked up a lot of what he needs — at least $622,000 in campaign contributions since 2004 — from Michael Peroutka, a lawyer who made a fortune in the consumer debt collection business and now serves on the county council of Anne Arundel County in Maryland.

Mr. Peroutka has been a member of the white supremacist League of the South (although he no longer is) as well as of the Constitution Party, which explicitly advocates imposing biblical law in the United States (and on whose ticket Mr. Peroutka ran for president in 2004). Mr. Moore appeared in a promotional video for Mr. Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution — an organization that seeks to teach a biblical view of the Constitution — calling it “highly instructive.”

Mr. Moore and Mr. Peroutka agree on so much, in fact, that Mr. Peroutka was happy to support Mr. Moore’s speaking tour, boosting his profile among members of the Constitution Party.

If elected, Mr. Moore may wish to give thanks to Gary DeMar, another one of his most ardent and influential supporters over the past decade. A senior fellow of a group that he formerly led called American Vision, Mr. DeMar has articulated a strictly theocratic vision of American governance, writing, “The law of God, as outlined in Scripture, is to be the standard of justice.” Mr. Moore appeared as the star speaker at one of Mr. DeMar’s rallies.

It would be comforting to dismiss Mr. Moore’s supporters as an irrelevant fringe. In fact, they believe, with good reason, that they are the future of the Republican Party. Two articles of faith dominated at the Values Voters Summit held in Washington this past October. The first is that “values voters” were directly responsible for the best thing that ever happened to American Christianity, namely, the election of President Trump. The second is that Roy Moore is the hero who will lead the Republican Party to glory.

“He stood there with his staff and he pushed back against the forces of secularism and he said, just like in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘You shall not pass,’ when they were going after the Ten Commandments,” Dana Loesch, an N.R.A. spokeswoman, said. Roy Moore, she added, is “the Gandalf of Alabama.”

Steve Bannon was also in Tolkien mode as he exulted over Mr. Moore’s victory in the Republican primary in September. “The hobbits are going door to door in the shire, and they’re getting everybody out,” he gushed.

“In Alabama, you folks were able to turn the tables,” he added. “You folks are going to be the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.”

Convinced that “Divine Providence worked on Judge Moore,” Mr. Bannon appeared to think that the primary victory of a longtime theocrat was a sign of “the fourth great turning of American civilization.”

“The fourth great turning,” it would seem, begins with the defeat of Gollum as played by Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate, and Paul Ryan, his partner in the establishment wing of the Republican Party and the speaker of the House. Mr. McConnell and Mr. Ryan, along with other Republican leaders, have now called for Moore’s withdrawal from the race.

But they haven’t said — and they won’t say — a word about Mr. Moore’s theocratic agenda. Because in their hearts, they know that Mr. Bannon is right about one thing: They need to keep the “hobbits” happy.

The allegations against Mr. Moore are horrifying enough and are surely all we need to call for the withdrawal of his candidacy for the Senate. But it is the response to those allegations that matters more in the long run. In the past week we have learned as much about Mr. Moore’s followers as we have about the man himself.

As Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Leon Wieseltier and Bill O’Reilly have reminded us, sexual predators can be found at all points on the political spectrum. But not all communities respond to the issue in the same way.

Roy Moore’s supporters have distinguished themselves with the virulence with which they refuse to consider the evidence against him. They believe more fervently in their own persecution than they do in the testimony of Mr. Moore’s alleged victims.

A number of Mr. Moore’s supporters don’t have that much of a problem with his alleged assaults on underage women. A small but militant group seems to think that his only mistake was to fail to ask the parents for permission.

Sexual abuse has its roots in sexism and imbalances of power. That’s one of the reasons the people who share Mr. Moore’s version of Christianity have so much trouble recognizing it. Patriarchy — “male headship,” as it is often called in the church — is the water in which they swim.

The rigorously enforced silence about sex that leaves young girls vulnerably ignorant; the insistence on absolute obedience that empowers predators; the mind-set that grants men the power to dominate and women the duty to submit, and that excuses the indiscretions of men even as it blames girls for their sinful provocations — these are common to all forms of fundamentalist religions. But they are wildly overrepresented among the theocrats from whom Mr. Moore takes his bearings.

In the coming days, pundits will be working overtime to make us feel somewhat normal again. They’ll say that Moore is part of a “populist revolt” against the “Republican establishment.” That is a way of making what is happening in today’s Republican Party sound something like a noisier version of politics as usual. It is also a delusion. There is a movement to destroy our democracy, and it has invaded one of our two major parties. Roy Moore, for a time, was said to be “the tip of the spear.”

Mr. Moore may be in line for martyrdom now, but there will be replacements. And they won’t all come with disqualifying sexual histories. It is terrible ideas, not just terrible behavior, that matter. We need to reject their extremism, however it expresses itself.

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Originally published on The New York Times.

The Book
The Good News Club, by Katherine Stewart

The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children

About the Author
author Katherine Stewart Katherine Stewart has written for The New York Times, the Atlantic, and the Guardian. She lives in New York City. Contact her. More →

 


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