Alabama’s state auditor, Jim Zeigler, is defending anti-LGBT U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore against allegations of sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl by saying Mary, believed by Christians to be the mother of Jesus Christ, was a teenager when she married her husband, Joseph.
“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Zeigler told the Washington Examiner, a conservative website. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
In a Washington Post story, Leigh Corfman, now 53, said that when she was 14 and Moore 32, they dated for a time, and while they were alone in his home, he stripped her to her undergarments, touched her over her bra and panties, and guided his hand to touch his genitals through his underwear. She then asked him to take her home, and he did. Several other women said they dated Moore while in their teens, but the contact didn’t go beyond kissing.
Moore, a Republican, built his political career on his conservative Christian views, especially opposition to LGBT rights and abortion. He was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because of his efforts to block marriage equality in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. He has denied the allegations in a written statement, and in an email to his supporters, he said he intended to stay in the Senate race to fight the “forces of evil.”
Zeigler said that even if the allegations against Moore are true, it’s “much ado about nothing.”
“There is nothing to see here,” he told the Examiner. “The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse.”
Several religious scholars objected to Zeigler’s use of the Bible to defend Moore. “Bringing Joseph and Mary into a modern-day molestation accusation, where a 32-year-old prosecutor is accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, is simultaneously ridiculous and blasphemous,” Ed Stetzer, a pastor and church consultant who holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College in Illinois, told The Washington Post. “Even those who followed ancient marriage customs, which we would not follow today, knew the difference between molesting and marriage.”
“Women were chattel back then, they were traded — of course they married men who were much older and had multiple wives,” the Rev. Amy Butler, senior minister of the interdemoninational Riverside Church in New York City, told the Post. “It’s completely ludicrous to equate the sex assault of a minor with an ancient culture. It’s ludicrous. ... It makes me want to rip the church back from these people.”
“The Bible does not state Mary and Joseph’s specific ages, but she is usually understood to be a teenager, and Joseph was an adult,” the Post notes. Christians generally believe that Mary was a virgin when impregnated by God (not Joseph) to bear his son, Jesus. Joseph is usually considered Jesus’ earthly father or a father figure.
Moore is running against Democrat Doug Jones in a special election to succeed Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to become U.S. attorney general. Moore bested the interim senator, Luther Strange, in a primary and runoff. The general election will be December 12.
Some prominent Republicans are calling on Moore to leave the race, but he does have his defenders, in addition to Zeigler. Alabama State Rep. Ed Henry said he doubted the accusers’ veracity and called for legal action against them, reports Alabama newspaper The Cullman Times.
“If they believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years,” Henry told the paper. “I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion.”