DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
The potential election of Roy Moore to a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama is, among other things, a serious issue for the LGBT community. Few — if any — members of the U.S. Senate are as virulently anti-LGBT as Moore.
Moore’s election is also an issue for women. He stands accused of molestation and sexual assault by five women who say that when they were teens and he was in his 30s, Moore pursued them and engaged or tied to engage them in sexual activity.
One of the accusers said Moore “dated” her when she was 14 and that they had a sexual encounter. A mall in his hometown of Gadsden, Ala., banned him from the shopping center because of reports he harassed teenage girls.
Moore has the distinction of being removed from the same office — chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court — twice. That’s a record.
The first time, he was elected by the people of Alabama in 2001 and removed by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary in 2003 for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments he commissioned for the Alabama Judicial Building, even after a federal court ordered him to remove it.
The second time, the people re-elected him to the same seat in 2013, and the same court suspended him in 2016 when he directed the state’s probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell marriage equality ruling. After he was found guilty and suspended for the remainder of his term, Moore resigned.
A number of evangelical ministers have come to Moore’s defense in the wake of allegations of his inappropriate sexual behavior with teen girls. To the astonishment of many Christians, these ministers have compared Moore and his assault of a 14-year-old to the relationship between Mary and Joseph in the New Testament.
“That’s an affront to us,” said Cathedral of Hope Senior Pastor the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas. “Using the justification of God precludes logic.”
Cazares-Thomas suggested that such justifications mean, to evangelicals, that Moore is somehow holy or ordained, that he has God-given approval, in the same way they claim God gave Trump approval to nuke North Korea. He questioned whether these ministers believe that by making excuses for Moore they have absolved him of being accountable.
Cazares-Thomas debunked the “same as Joseph and Mary” claim by noting that Joseph and Mary were married. In fact, in biblical times, that’s how marriage happened. With Moore, he said, “What we’re talking about is molestation.” So, he continued, doesn’t that mean that if what Moore did was comparable to Joseph and Mary, he’s now married to the women he molested?
Cazares-Thomas called on people of faith not to allow such behavior to be equated with the values of Jesus and to make a difficult and moral choice. “This is not fake news,” he declared. “Five women have come forward. It’s not acceptable to deny it.”
Alex Smith, the executive director of Equality Alabama, was guardedly optimistic about the outcome of that senate race following the allegations against Moore.
While Equality Alabama doesn’t endorse candidates, he said, it has been sending volunteers to help with the campaign of Democratic candidate Doug Jones.
Smith said he’s also been hearing people from local Republican organizations talking about why they’re voting for Jones. “As more stories of sexual assault come out, the mood feels like it’s shifting,” Smith said.
If Moore is elected, Smith warned, it would send a message that the safety of the LGBT community isn’t important.
Few in the state would be voting for Moore who didn’t know his history of removal from office twice. Smith said the two sides simply see very different versions of those events. On the left, people understand Moore didn’t respect the U.S. Constitution. But, “On the right, they’ll say a godless government has removed a righteous person from office,” Smith said.
Earlier this week, Moore’s wife, Kayla, posted a letter on Facebook supporting her husband that was signed by 50 pastors. But, Smith said, the letter was written and signed before the Republican primary.
To defend her husband against the charges of abuse of minors, Kayla Moore removed the first three paragraphs to cover her deceit and included the signatures. Several of the pastors have already demanded their names be removed.
Smith said polling this week — even from conservative organizations — shows Jones two points ahead, which is within the margin of error. He expects a tight race.
So what happens if Moore wins?
One option is for the Senate to refuse to seat Moore under Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which has rarely been used.
After the Civil War through 1900, the House of Representatives refused to seat more than 30 southern Democrats. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, several representatives from Utah were refused their seats because they were polygamists or were alleged to have sworn an oath against the U.S. government.
The Senate invoked that section of the Constitution most recently in 2009 after the election of Barack Obama, when Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was accused of selling Obama’s vacated seat. Roland Burris, who had been appointed, appeared at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 5, but was refused entry to the Senate chamber. On Jan. 12, the Illinois Secretary of State provided Burris with a copy of his certification with the state seal after an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in his favor. Burris was sworn in on Jan. 15.
But if the Senate refuses to seat Moore, another special election would be called and Smith said nothing could stop Moore from running again.
Smith said some local pundits have suggested people will vote for Moore knowing he won’t be seated to force a new election rather than vote for a Democrat.
But, he said, nothing would stop Moore from running again when he could win again. That means the state would be without full representation for more than a year. Smith said he didn’t think that was really anyone’s strategy.
Jones, the Democrat running against Moore in the Dec. 12 special election, hasn’t tried to hide his liberal views and pretend to be a “moderate.” He’s pro-Planned Parenthood, pro-choice, pro-healthcare and wrote on his website, “I want to be perfectly clear: I believe in science.”
He became an assistant U.S. attorney based in Birmingham in 1980 and was appointed the U.S. attorney for the Northern District in 1997. His most prominent case was the prosecution of three Klan members for the bombing of a black Baptist Church. Four young girls were killed and three of the four murderers had escaped trial for 35 years.
Alabama hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992.