Ben McKee, a 75-year-old veteran living in Elba, Ala., has asked Roy Moore to give the sermon at his funeral.
He hopes, of course, that the funeral won’t be anytime soon. But he says he has endured 35 treatments for his prostate cancer, and wants to make sure that the person conducting the service is “the finest man” he’s ever known.
“That’s what I think of Roy Moore,” he said.
Some evangelicals in Alabama still consider Moore, the state’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate, a champion of their faith — a politician willing to stand up for Christian values.
When he began his rise in Alabama politics as a circuit court judge in 1992, he hung a wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. In 2000, when he was elected chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, he upgraded to a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments, installed in the judicial building. He was dismissed from the bench three years later for refusing to remove the monument, a move that further cemented him as a stalwart Christian.
So when The Washington Post published an extensive report Thursday detailing Moore’s alleged pursuit of teenage girls, evangelicals such as McKee were quick to dismiss the reports as false. They pointed to his past actions, which suggest an unrelenting devotion to the Bible: Moore’s belief in the supremacy of a Christian God over the Constitution, his rebellion while a judge against same-sex marriages, his lamenting of the removal of God from schools and public life.
Other evangelicals, though, feel the allegations force them to make an uncomfortable decision.
“There are people who want to be charitable to people who are brothers and sisters in Christ. You don’t want to assume allegations are true — we have a court of law to determine things like that,” said Alan Noble, editor in chief of Christ & Pop Culture. “Some Christians respond, ‘Well, who are we to judge? We don’t know all the facts.’
“Sure, in a legal sense, that’s true,” Noble said.
But, he said, the “evidence is pretty damning.”
In The Post’s investigation, Leigh Corfman alleged that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her in 1979, when she was 14 years old. Three other women, all on the record, have said that Moore pursued them when they were between 16 and 18 years old. Another woman came forward on Monday, saying Moore sexually assaulted her in the 1970s when she was 16.
Senate Republican leaders on Monday launched a campaign to urge Moore to withdraw from his senate race, calling him “unfit to serve” and threatening to expel him from Congress if he were elected. Moore, however, has shown no indication that he is preparing to step aside.
Over the weekend, it appeared that Moore still had ample support from the Christian community despite the allegations.
His wife, Kayla Moore, posted a letter on Facebook indicating Moore still had the backing of more than 50 Alabama pastors and religious leaders.
But the letter appears to be a version of the same one posted on Moore’s campaign website months ago in anticipation of the primary election. The wording of the two letters is nearly identical — the difference being the omission of three paragraphs and a reference to the Aug. 15 election.
The letter posted on Kayla Moore’s Facebook page makes no mention of the allegations against her husband, which has led at least one pastor to say she did not sign the “new” letter.
Tijuanna Adetunji of the Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery told AL.com that no one contacted her about the letter and that she did not give permission for her name to be used.
McKee, the 75-year-old veteran, is the former reverend of First United Methodist Church of New Brockton, Ala. He commented on Kayla Moore’s Facebook post and said he wanted to add his name to the letter of support for Moore.
McKee served with Moore in the Vietnam War, he said, and has since known Moore to be man of honor, character and integrity.
McKee said he did not believe the allegations were true.
“I’d cut off my right arm if I knew Roy Moore would do this,” he said. “But I know him better than that.”
Noble, the Christian writer and editor, said in light of the allegations, “and lack of signs contrary to the evidence,” Alabama voters may think it unwise to vote for Moore. But it’s still a tough call, he said. Moore could still win the general election race against Democrat Doug Jones, considering nearly half the state identifies as evangelical.
Before last year’s presidential election, Donald Trump still had evangelical support despite a Washington Post report about a recording of Trump casually discussing sexual assault before taping a segment on “Access Hollywood.” When he denied having actually assaulted anyone, a number of women came forward to say he had in fact done to them what he had detailed in the audio recordings.
The Public Religion Research Institute soon after released data showing that moral rectitude wasn’t as important to evangelical voters as it once was — and that many believed a person who acts immorally in their personal lives still can serve morally in office.
Yet for Christians who feel they are engaged in a great struggle for the identity of America — and fear that their side has been losing ground — the most important question is not whether Trump believes in their cause, but whether he can win their wars. “Jimmy Carter sat in the pew with us. But he never fought for us,” Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told me after the president’s speech. “Donald Trump fights. And he fights for us.”
Still, many Christians have said they will no longer support Moore’s campaign in light of the allegations. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a series of tweets that the support for Moore might have girls and women in churches wondering where they can turn to if they are molested.
“A church that worships Jesus stands up for vulnerable women and girls,” Russell Moore tweeted. “A church that worships power sees them as expendable.”