Defending the indefensible

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We won't pretend to know what's going on in the head of Alabama's senatorial candidate Roy Moore. In fact, for this purpose we're not here to determine the truth behind the claims of sexual misconduct involving young teenagers when he was in his 30s.

What compels us to speak out are comments from some of Mr. Moore's supporters who are dismissive of the claims but also justify them if they are true, defending what the now-grown women have accused him of. Frankly we're with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, never a Moore supporter, in his statement urging Mr. Moore to withdraw: "I believe the women." But what kind of society do we live in where justifications for allegations of this nature are even uttered by responsible individuals?

We speak specifically of statements like this from Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler: "Also 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."

Really? What is there to say after a comment like that?

Whether or not Ray Moore did what he's said to have done, Mr. Zeigler is defending such behavior by comparing the former judge to revered biblical figures and practices from 2,000 years ago and giving him a pass on the alleged actions, and thus giving the same sort of pass to anyone having relations with an underage girl. It's sickening.

At least Mr. Moore, for his part, has denied making such unwanted advances toward teenage girls, one as young as 14, when he was in his 30s.

It's an interesting time we're living in. It seems that allegations against politicians and Hollywood figures are coming out daily. We may even be starting to become numb to all the bad behavior. Sometimes allegations are really just that, allegations. And while some people may ultimately be wrongfully accused, what we're talking about here concerns people — hopefully no more than a few — who have come out publicly in various media interviews defending sexual misconduct. It's disgusting and unbelievably irresponsible.

The Marion County Alabama GOP chairman, David Hall, has been quoted in the Moore scandal as saying, "It was 40 years ago. I really don't see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She's not saying that anything happened other than they kiss."

Again, we don't know the truth of this. But if the allegations against Roy Moore are true, it would be a public embarrassment if he were to be seated following the December 12 special election. If not criminal behavior, although what else is assault on a minor, it's certainly creepy. If supporters don't believe the allegations, that's their prerogative — but to support that kind of behavior?

"Whatever he did 40 years ago is irrelevant to the person he is now," said Christopher Word, an Alabama attorney. We'd beg to differ. While there's no doubt people can change over time and learn from their mistakes, "irrelevant" is not a word we'd use to describe sexual misconduct with an underage girl.

We're reminded of President Donald Trump's comment in January, 2016: "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." Mr. Trump may well be correct. We have no doubt certain supporters would find a way to defend an indefensible act. But at least Mr. Trump didn't attempt to justify any of the alleged misdeeds, but only said that Mr. Moore had denied the accusations.

Maybe these defenders of the indefensible in Alabama are so wrapped up in political partisanship that blind allegiance is the only avenue available to them.

While people are responsible for their own actions, everyone is also responsible for what they say. Too many people, in this age of instant messaging and social media, make statements that get shared and saved and don't ever go away. Defending the indefensible is a losing proposition. Words, as well as deeds, can define us.

Mr. Moore previously was defined as a twice-elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from the bench by state authorities in his first go-round and then suspended after being elected again, subsequently resigning, over allowing his religious convictions to override the Constitution in his official actions — first in defying a federal court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments that he had commissioned on court grounds and a second time for continuing to insist that Alabama state judges enforce a same-sex marriage ban after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

We're disheartened by people, hopefully not many, who have risen in defense of the latest revelations about Moore in using God to defend bad behavior. "And if he (Moore) had done it, it doesn't matter in God's eyes because he'd have been forgiven," Alabama's Bruce Register was quoted by the Huffington Post while interviewing Alabama residents about the allegations.

Then there's Dottie Finch, another Moore supporter in an interview on CNN. "I think that would just be between him and his good Lord. Even if they (the allegations) prove to be true, I would still support Roy Moore because I feel it happened in the past."

We think it's best to leave God out of this. The Roy Moore story isn't going away any time soon and people who believe in Mr. Moore certainly have the right to do so. But if he did what he's accused of, defending the indefensible is the last thing anybody should be doing, no matter how long ago this occurred.

— Telegram & Gazette

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