Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

'Take the Bible...': And thus began the worst defense of Roy Moore

By Aaron Blake

November 9, 2017 at 6:29 PM

Former Alabama chief justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore on Sept. 26, 2017. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Roy Moore's Senate campaign was jolted by an allegation Thursday that he initiated sexual touching with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.

Moore (R) has denied the allegations. Alabama state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R), though, is taking it a step further. In some rather remarkable and often nonsensical comments, the Moore supporter's argument isn't that Moore didn't do these things, but that even the conduct described in The Washington Post's report is a-okay with both him and the law.

Zeigler's comments came in an interview with the Washington Examiner. Let's break them down:

“There is nothing to see here,” Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler told the Washington Examiner. “The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse.”

The first problem here is that the allegation isn't just that Moore “dated” 14-year-old Leigh Corfman but, rather, that he removed her clothes and touched her, and guided her hand to touch his penis. Corfman says this was unwanted.

And regardless of whether this was consensual, this kind of activity would sure seem to be illegal. As The Post notes, Alabama law in 1979, as now, placed the age of consent at 16. It would be “sexual abuse in the second degree” for someone 19 or older to engage in sexual contact with someone younger than 16 but older than 12, and sexual contact is defined as the touching of sexual or intimate parts.

Here's more from Zeigler:

Moore never had “sexual intercourse” with the girl. Their relationship “happened almost 40 years ago.” And finally, “Roy Moore fell in love with one of the younger women.”

Moore began dating his wife Kayla around this time, according to Ziegler. “He dated her. He married her, and they’ve been married about 35 years. They’re blessed with a wonderful marriage and his wife Kayla is 14 years younger than Moore.”

Moore's wife, Kayla, is indeed 14 years his junior, but the law is less concerned with age differences and more concerned with whether one of the parties is a minor who isn't able to consent. A 70-year-old and a 56-year-old is not the same thing, for example, as a 28-year-old and a 14-year-old.

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Alabama residents have mixed reactions about the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore. (Arik Sokol, Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

And finally, the pièce de résistance:

“Take the Bible — Zachariah and Elizabeth, for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Ziegler says, choosing his words carefully before invoking Christ. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

“There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” Ziegler concluded. “Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

First, there are issues with Zeigler's Bible references. Both Zachariah and Elizabeth were elderly when John the Baptist was born; it wasn't that she was young and Zachariah was “extremely old.”

Second, comparing modern age-of-consent laws to biblical times seems to be a slippery slope. Many things from 2,000 years ago don't apply today. Girls were often betrothed early in their teenage years, for example.

And third, there is something called the virgin birth. Here is the definition of virgin. As The Post's Michelle Boorstein writes in her piece breaking this all down:

In the Bible, Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Joseph became her husband. Beliefs about the specific story of Joseph and Mary and Jesus’ birth vary widely in Christian history and across traditions. Mary is referred to in scripture as a virgin, but there is disagreement about what that means. Generally, however, Christians believe that Mary was a virgin when he was born. Joseph is usually referred to as Jesus’ “father” or a father figure.

...

Multiple evangelical leaders slammed Ziegler.

“Bringing Joseph and Mary into a modern-day molestation accusation, where a 32-year-old prosecutor is accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, is simultaneously ridiculous and blasphemous,” said Ed Stetzer, a pastor and church consultant who chairs the Billy Graham Center of Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College. “Even those who followed ancient marriage customs, which we would not follow today, knew the difference between molesting and marriage.”

Further reading: "Alabama state official defends Roy Moore, citing Joseph and Mary: ‘They became parents of Jesus’"


Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix.

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