Accounts and allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse perpetrated by mostly straight white men in power have flooded the U.S. news cycle for months. Each new revelation confirms that sexual violence is an epidemic fueled by systems of unchecked power and authority, including patriarchy, white supremacy, and Christian supremacy.
After The Washington Post published the story of Leigh Corfman who recounted the sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of Roy Moore, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler came to his defense and argued that this would have no political impact since Moore “never had sexual intercourse with any of these girls.”
We all ought know by now that such allegations of sexual abuse, even when the perpetrator admits to them, bear little weight on the electability of white male politicians (see: November 8, 2016). Even so, I was stunned by a poll that revealed that 29% of Alabama voters answered that they are now more likely to vote for Roy Moore since allegations were made against him.
Roy Moore has centered his political career on advocating for far-right policies applauded by evangelical Christians: he’s anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-Muslim. In 2001 Moore took it upon himself to install a monument with the Ten Commandments inside the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. Eventually Moore, who absurdly refused to remove the monument even after being ordered to do so by his fellow justices, was voted out of the Alabama Supreme Court.
However, in 2013, Moore was re-elected to the Supreme Court. After taking his oath of office he said, “We’ve got to remember that most of what we do in court comes from some scripture or is backed by scripture.” Moore was suspended from office a second time after refusing to comply with federal law regarding same-sex marriage.
Clearly Moore believes that his conservative “Christian” beliefs exempt him from following the law. He believes his actions, no matter how harmful they are to others, are justified since he believes he is following “God’s law.” He’s not alone.
With regard to the allegations of Moore sexually abusing teenage girls, Zeigler went so far as to distort the Christian nativity story to excuse, and even to justify them:
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. Maybe just a little bit unusual.
Yes, you read that correctly. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here.” Rather than outright denying the allegations against Moore, Zeigler used his public platform to defend child molestation as something sanctioned by our biblical stories.
Is there anything more despicable than the perversion and distortion of sacred texts to justify the abusive behavior of a sexual predator?
Are we then to turn to the book of Genesis for guidance for our relationships? Do we revisit to the story of Sarai and Abram and permit a husband to sell his wife into prostitution for his own personal wealth and gain? Do we point to the story of Hagar to justify forced marriage, sexual slavery, and compulsory surrogacy?
We cannot allow this public discourse to continue. Religious scholars, advocates, and leaders must call out–strongly, consistently, and publicly–the dangers of such coercive, manipulative biblical rhetoric that silences victims and shelters perpetrators under the guise of Christian values. Not only do they pose a constant threat to the women and girls around them, but they are also a danger to our entire political process and to our collective future.
Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer, and speaker who inspires communities to create amore just, compassionate world. She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazine, the Good Mother Project, and the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion. She is the co-host of Kindreds, a podcast for soul sisters. Her book Women Rise Up will be published by the FAR Press in March of 2018. Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website kateyzeh.com.