The Roy Moore sexual misconduct scandal is controversial for obvious reasons. The GOP Senate candidate has been accused of pursuing romantic relationships with five women while they were in their teens, including two who have accused him of unwanted sexual advances.
What's also notable is how strongly the Alabama candidate has pressed into his conservative Christian values to defend himself against these allegations. The conservative Christian has interpreted accusations against him as a religious war because of his campaign promise to bring God back to politics.
Some evangelical leaders have come out against Moore's candidacy, while others have defended his alleged behavior, even comparing claims that he pursued romantic relationships with teenagers to the relationship between the biblical Joseph and Mary.
But conservative Christian women have had a different take on Moore; their focus has been on believing women.
Liberty University Professor Karen Swallow Prior said too many Christians are being dismissive of the women — a reversal from how they responded to accusations against liberal entertainers and Hollywood executives.
“In my ongoing conversations over the past week, I’ve found that even apart from the specific controversy over the allegations against Moore, evangelical women are being confronted — once again — with the poor response by the church to accusations of sexual abuse,” she told The Fix. “Some of them are old enough to have watched conservatives embrace the testimonies of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and rape decades ago, and are now witnessing a complete reversal toward Moore’s accusers. Likewise, we’ve watched some in the church gleefully say “gotcha” as the Hollywood sex abuse scandal has unfolded only to become silent in the present case.”
Christian author Trillia Newbell said women have noticed that some men are willing to choose partisanship over caring for the needs of wounded women.
“I do think that the current political season and cultural climate has caused many women who have been abused, neglected or treated as objects rather than image bearers to feel like there are certain inappropriate behaviors that Christian men are willing to look past for the sake of the party-line,” said Newbell. “No inappropriate treatment of women should be considered acceptable and okay, especially for men who know that Jesus had to die for that sin.”
And while some evangelical men may not immediately believe the accusers, the same can’t be said for evangelical women, said Katelyn Beaty, former managing editor for Christianity Today magazine.
“Most of the evangelical women I’ve seen respond to the Roy Moore allegations instinctively believe them,” said Beaty. “Most women have some experience of sexual abuse, assault or harassment and know the kind of shame and silence they create. So when a woman comes forward with her story of being abused by a man with a lot of power and clout, most women know the risk and believe her.”
After allegations surfaced that Moore sexually assaulted a woman when she was 16, teacher Beth Moore discussed the recent relationship between evangelicals and politics and the long-term impact it will have on the faith community.
“It’s been a harrowing trip to Oz for many evangelicals this year, the curtain pulled back on the wizards of cause,” she tweeted. “We found a Bible all right, seemingly used instead of applied, leveraged instead of obeyed, cut and pasted piecemeal into a pledge of allegiance to serve the served.”
Despite 11 women coming forward during the presidential campaign to accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault, he still won the white evangelical vote, in part because most of his supporters did not believe the allegations.
As the conversation about sexual harassment and assault against women continues, evangelicals — especially women — are finding themselves wondering if a politician professing Christian values actually values women.