Roy Moore: a sex scandal judge with God by his side | Observer profile (Guardian U.S.)

Roy Moore: a sex scandal judge with God by his side | Observer profile

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Perhaps only in the deeply Republican state of Alabama could a pistol-packing, stetson-wearing ex-judge accused of sexual misconduct become a formidable political candidate.

That candidate, the former chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, Roy Moore, a 70-year-old evangelical Christian who was recently accused of sexually coercing teenagers in the 1970s, stands this week in a special election for the Senate seat vacated by President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Moore’s avowed intent is to bring God to Washington – he once installed a 5,280lb rock inscribed with the Ten Commandments in his courthouse. If he wins, as is predicted, against Democrat Doug Jones, a prosecutor who once convicted members of the Ku Klux Klan for a 1963 bombing that killed four teenage black girls, his victory might represent a refusal by the state’s conservative Christians to prioritise accusations of sexual coercion and assault over sending a southern, anti-authoritarian message to Washington.

In evangelical Alabama, the choice between a Republican candidate facing sexual harassment claims and a Democrat who twice missed opportunities to adjust his position on late-term abortion in favour of an all-encompassing woman’s right to choose may not be much of a choice at all.

“We’ve got to go back to restoring the morality of this country,” Moore told supporters at a rally last week, an event that was also attended by Steve Bannon, the conservative ideologue and former Trump chief strategist, who views the election as a test of his theories about “party realignment”.

In one sense, Bannon already has his answer: Moore became the candidate after beating Luther Strange, who had been supported by Trump and the Republican party leadership, in the first round of elections in September. Bannon described that vote as an opportunity to tell the party establishment “what you think of the elites who run this country”. It was an opportunity voters duly accepted, giving Moore 55% of the votes.

Washington Republicans view the Moore-Bannon coupling as a marker of their diminished authority. Democrats, busy cleaning their own house of elected officials accused of sexual harassment, have struggled to achieve differentiation. While Trump hasn’t formally campaigned for Moore in Alabama – he held a rally on Friday over the state border in Florida – he has said plainly: “We don’t want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama.”

One can also read Trump signalling his comfort with Alabama evangelists in the timing of the decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Many US evangelicals express strong solidarity with conservatives in Israel and express a belief that the Jews must return to the holy city before the rapture (the transporting of believers to heaven) can take place. Promoted by the vice-president, Mike Pence, who joined the Trump campaign ticket on condition that Trump would support a push to relax tax-code restrictions on churches engaging in excessive political activity, the timing of the Jerusalem decision might influence the Alabama election.

In Moore, Christian evangelicals and Israeli hardliners alike have found a conservative crusader to embrace; in contrast, he has united the Republican establishment, Democrats and much of the media in disapproval. There is plenty to abhor. He has described 9/11 as punishment for America turning away from God. He’s called Islam a “false religion” and said homosexuality should be outlawed. At a rally in September, he warned of “the awful calamity of abortion and sodomy and perverse behaviour and murders and shootings and road rage” as “a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins”.

While campaigning with Bannon, a visiting Nigel Farage and Phil Robertson, star of TV’s Duck Dynasty, Moore waved a silver revolver. He also sent out a campaign video lamenting America’s enduring, post-Civil War divisions. Instead of brothers fighting, he said: “Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”

Throughout his career, Moore has routinely overlooked separation of church and state. He became known as “Alabama’s Ten Commandments judge” when the American Civil Liberties Union sued him to remove a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the state judicial building, a dispute that helped him win the election as chief justice in 2000. In 2003, Moore was removed from the Alabama supreme court after defying a federal order to take away the monument. Nine years later, in 2012, he won his old job back but was removed again after he was found to have encouraged lower court judges to deny marriage licences to gay couples, six months after same sex was legalised by the US supreme court.

Leigh Corfman alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14. Photograph: NBC

In an interview last summer, Moore told the Guardian that he observed similarities between himself and Vladimir Putin in their attitude to same-sex marriage. “Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know,” he said. But Moore’s problematic attitude to jurisprudence has lately been overshadowed by allegations of sexual coercion published by the Washington Post a month ago. Leigh Corfman claimed that in 1979, when she was 14, an older man approached her outside a courtroom and introduced himself as Roy Moore. Moore, then a 32-year-old district attorney, offered to keep an eye on the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.

Days later, she said, he picked her up and drove her to his home in the woods. On a second visit, she said, Moore took off her shirt and trousers and removed his clothes. She claimed he touched her over her bra and underpants and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. Under Alabama law, a person who is at least 19 who has sexual contact with someone older than 12 and younger than 15 has committed sexual abuse in the second degree. The crime is punishable by up to one year in jail.

“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore said. Nine other women came forward to accuse him of a variety of inappropriate behaviour, starting from pestering them for dates as teens.

Initially, Republican leaders distanced themselves from Moore. Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said he believed Moore’s accusers. “Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” said Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. Trump, burned by Moore’s win over Strange, kept his distance.

However, as Moore’s poll numbers have improved – he leads by 1.5 points – official support has been restored. The Republican National Committee, which had cut off Moore, resumed funding for the embattled candidate. Many senior Republicans have equivocated, arguing that Alabama voters should decide. But Republican speaker, Paul Ryan, has maintained his position that he should drop out. “Just because the polling has changed doesn’t change my opinion on that, so I stand by what I said before.”

Still, if Moore wins on Tuesday it will give Trump confidence that the energy of his insurgent, “anti-establishment”, Make America Great Again campaign endures. Trump may not be religious, but with the Jerusalem embassy decision he has renewed his connection with America’s evangelicals.

Democrats can only hope that the resignations of Minnesota senator and former comedian Al Franken and Michigan congressman John Conyers will put some clear political distance between the parties’ respective attitudes toward sexual harassment ahead of the midterm elections next year.


Workmen remove the monument of the Ten Commandments that Moore installed in the Alabama judicial building. Photograph: Bill Haber/AP

Republican congressional leaders have intimated that they could initiate an ethics investigation if Moore is elected, which could pave the way for the Senate to expel him and have a replacement appointed. But moderate Republicans acknowledge that such an approach would be problematic. “If the voters of the state, fully knowing all of these allegations, nevertheless choose to elect Roy Moore, is it appropriate for the Senate to expel him?” Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, asked last week.

Even as the Moore-Jones race enters its final two days, the question of sex continued to reverberate after one of Moore’s accusers, Beverly Young Nelson, conceded she’d written part of an inscription in her high school yearbook that was earlier presented as being written by Moore.

On Tuesday, Moore and his wife, Kayla, will ride horses to the polling location, they have said. The couple typically ride to every election Moore contests. If he wins, Moore will have many people to thank for his improbable rise. There’s another name certain to get a shout-out. “He’s done more for my campaign than anybody,” Moore said after his first round victory. “And that’s the Almighty God.”

THE MOORE FILE

Born Roy Stewart Moore, 11 February 1947, in Gadsden, Alabama, the oldest of five children of a construction worker and housewife.

Best of times He had a large slab of Vermont granite inscribed with quotes from the Declaration of Independence, the national anthem and the founding fathers installed in the Alabama supreme court. It was topped off with tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Worst of Times In Vietnam, Moore insisted his troops salute him on the battlefield. He was named “Captain America” and later recalled sleeping on sandbags to avoid a grenade tossed under his cot in retribution.

What he says “I think it [America] was great at the time when families were united. Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another.”

What others say After refusing to acknowledge same-sex marriage legislation, Human Rights Campaign said: “It is clear that Roy Moore not only believes he is above the law, he believes he is above judicial ethics…”

General

via Guardian U.S. http://bit.ly/2szDb9W

December 9, 2017 at 04:24PM

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