In 2016 then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was caught on an Access Hollywood videotape giving instructions on how to commit sexual assault, and then proudly admitting to assaulting several women himself. In response, Ralph Reed Chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Trump endorser told CNN, that the comments by Trump rank low among the concerns of his supporters, and that they are more focused on the issues of abortion, the economy, and nuclear arms. Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, told BuzzFeed “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values, it is based upon shared concerns about issues such as justices on the Supreme Court that ignore the constitution, America’s continued vulnerability to Islamic terrorists and the systematic attack on religious liberty that we’ve seen in the last 7 1/2 years.” This embrace of Trump by influential religious conservatives have placed evangelicals in the trap they find themselves in today, having to justify and turn a blind eye to sexual assault!
For decades Christian conservative spokesmen portrayed their involvement in partisan battles as an aspect of their faith’s witness. Judeo-Christian ethics and the inculcation of moral standards in public life were not just talking points to the organized religious right; they were the reason the movement existed in the first place. Jerry Falwell, who launched the Moral Majority in 1979, explained that its purpose was “to turn back the flood tide of moral permissiveness, family breakdown, and general capitulation to evil” that he feared was inundating American life.
Republicans were pressured into impeaching Bill Clinton for lying about committing adultery by the same religious right who today in spite of President Trump’s numerous moral lapses back Donald Trump 100%. Televangelist Pat Robertson would blast Clinton as a “debauched, debased, and defamed” politician who turned the Oval Office into a “playpen for the sexual freedom of the 1960s.” The then chairman of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed would insist vehemently, in 1998, “we care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.” When more than a dozen women came forward and said that Trump had groped them, kissed them against their will or otherwise assaulted them, Republicans ignored it or explained it away. To this day, it is the position of the White House that all those women are liars, something no religious conservative Republicans have disputed.
This hypocrisy has now placed the religious right in the position of having to justify or simply ignore predatory sexual assault. It also has provided a roadmap for sexual assaulters to successfully maintain evangelical support, Judge Roy Moore Alabama candidate for United States Senate is doing just that. The Washington Post has written a very credible story about explosive allegations of Moore pursuing relationships with teenage girls (one as young as 14) while he was in his 30s. Moore following President Trump’s example has called all the woman accusers liars, insisting that The Post’s story is all a bunch of lies engineered by people who want to silence Christians like him. He’s even using it as a fundraising tool, asking supporters to contribute so that he can fight back against “the forces of evil” and “The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs.”
A neutral observer reading the Post story would find it hard not to believe the accusations. Four different women, none of whom know each other, telling similar stories of Moore pursuing them when they were teenagers. They didn’t come forward themselves, reporters after hearing rumors that apparently had been circulating in Alabama for years, tracked them down and convinced them to share their stories. They have nothing to gain, each woman had relatives and friends who they had told of the improper behavior, to come forward and corroborate the stories. Yesterday a fifth woman, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward with another similar assault story and her high school yearbook signed by him “Love, Ray Moore D.A.”
The reactions from the Christian right to this abusive behavior have been as disappointing as the assault stories themselves.
Some are declaring that they believe him, while others are trying to find biblical justification for grown men having sexual relationships with young girls. Others have said that even if the allegations are true, it’s better to elect a pedophile than a Democrat.
Religious conservatives have trapped themselves in a place where they have lost all moral credibility. Their enthusiastic support to elect an admitted sexual predator as President and turning a blind eye to a pedophile running for the Senate, has created a new religious paradigm. Religious principles no longer dictate politics for religious conservatives, now politics dictates religious principles for religious conservatives. God help and save America.