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There’s More Than One Roy Moore Scandal


Lost amid his alleged dalliances with children is the fact that the twice-fired judge has no respect for the rule of law.

Media coverage of Roy Moore's campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama has focused, not surprisingly, on allegations by multiple women that Moore preyed on and molested teenagers when he was in his 30s. Some Republican officials have withdrawn their support for Moore, but President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are supporting him, which would have been scandalous even without those allegations.

Let's start with the most obvious. Anyone who endorsed Moore for the U.S. Senate -- even before the allegations of sexual predation surfaced -- has sacrificed any right to be taken seriously as a defender of the Constitution and rule of law. Moore was famously removed from his job as the state's chief justice not once but twice, for defying federal court orders he disagreed with, once on church-state separation and once on marriage equality.

While Moore likes to portray himself as the victim of hostile liberals, it was his colleagues within the Alabama state judiciary -- hardly a hotbed of left-wing radicalism -- who held him accountable for violating his professional responsibilities. The events that led to Moore's removal not only reflected his ideological stubbornness, they also revealed that Moore stands opposed to core constitutional principles.

He is not committed, for example, to judicial independence. He shows no respect for judges who don't share his worldview. At a religious right political gathering this year, Moore called for the impeachment of the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality. He's also called for the impeachment of "activist" judges in general and more specifically of the judge who ruled against Trump's proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military.

This summer he signaled his intent to use the power of the Senate to undermine the independence of the federal courts. "When I get to the Senate, the days of silent submissiveness from the legislative branch will be over," he said.

Moore's ideas about basic concepts like liberty and democracy are troubling. "Liberty in the American system of government is not the right to define one's own reality in defiance of the Creator," he wrote in 2016. Like Trump, Moore has expressed admiration for Russia's antidemocratic strongman Vladimir Putin, saying that the U.S. could be considered "the focus of evil in the modern world" for its support of marriage equality.

Equality under the law is another core constitutional principle that earns Moore's hostility, at least when applied to LGBTQ people. He says homosexual conduct is morally "the same thing" as a person having sex with a horse or dog, and he wants to make gay people criminals. In legal opinions he has even cited past laws that made homosexuality a death-penalty offense. As a judge he supported taking a woman's children away from her because she was a lesbian, and he believes a person who engages in an "inherent evil" like homosexuality is automatically an unfit parent.

Moore also demonstrates contempt for religious pluralism. "Our country has always been a Christian nation," he wrote in his 2004 book, So Help Me God. In 2006, when Keith Ellison, a Muslim, was elected to the U.S. Congress, Moore said Congress should refuse to seat him, an assertion of raw religious bigotry. More recently, in 2012, Moore complained that "false religions" were taking hold in America. He says that a nation "can't be neutral with God."

Since the publication of sexual misconduct allegations, Moore has been avoiding contact with media except for reliably right-wing outlets. On Monday, Moore appeared on the air with American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer, who says the religious freedom protections of the First Amendment apply only to Christians; Fischer is a Moore soulmate when it comes to anti-Muslim bigotry and criminalizing homosexuality. Moore said his accusers are "pure evil" and thatthe political establishment is failing to support him because they don't want him bringing the "truth" about the Constitution and Almighty God to Washington.

Twenty years ago, Moore defiantly defended his practice of opening courtroom sessions with Christian prayers and inviting others to join him, but only if they were Christian. Moore said no Muslim or Buddhist would offer prayers in his courtroom because "they do not acknowledge the God of the Holy Bible upon which this country is established." An Associated Press story from the time quoted the driver of a log truck saying publicity over Moore's practices and Christian-nation rhetoric was making it harder to be one of only "a handful of Jews" in his Alabama town: "Just last week a boy held my boy's arm behind his back and tried to break it. He said he did it because he was Jewish."

Roy Moore does not deserve a seat in the U.S. Senate. He has repeatedly undermined basic American values, and the same can be said for anyone who supports him -- which includes the White House and the Republican National Committee.

PETER MONTGOMERY is a senior fellow at People for the American Way who has studied the religious right movement and its right-wing political allies for more than two decades.

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Peter Montgomery