As President Trump is visiting Southeast Asia, another Republican is making the headlines in the US news media. He is Roy S. Moore, a 70-year old former Alabama state judge best known for being twice elected to and twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court. In 1992, he became a circuit court judge and hung his wooden Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom. In 2000, he was elected chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, and he soon installed a 5,280-pound granite Ten Commandments monument in the judicial building.
In 2003, he was dismissed from the bench for ignoring a federal court order to remove the monument, and became known nationally as “The Ten Commandments Judge.” Moore was again elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012 and was again dismissed for ignoring a judicial order, this time for instructing probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Moore is also the founder and president of the Foundation for Moral Law who as the Republican Senate nominee in Alabama is now trying to fill the Senate seat Attorney General Jeff Sessions held until this year.
In recent days, Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct by Leigh Corfman who said that she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore. It was early 1979. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother said to the Washington Post and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.
Days later, Moore picked Leigh up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, he molested her. Aside from Ms. Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the three women says that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact. Gloria Thacker Deason said she was an 18-year-old cheerleader when Moore began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus Rosé wine. The legal drinking age in Alabama was 19.
Of the four women, the youngest at the time was Corfman, who is the only one who says she had sexual contact (but no intercourse) with Moore that went beyond kissing.
In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations. On Saturday, he tried to discredit the women who had accused him of sexual misconduct. “People have waited until four weeks prior to the general election to bring their complaints,” Mr. Moore, 70, said during a Veterans Day event in Vestavia Hills, Ala., near Birmingham. “That’s not a coincidence — it’s an intentional act to stop a campaign.”
Many of his party’s most powerful figures have been asking him to end a campaign that they worried would undermine their candidates nationwide.
Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama, however, rebuffed calls that she postpone next month’s election, which could leave Republicans with a narrower majority in Washington. Moore also assured everyone that he is not quitting. Many voters in his state also want him not to quit.
Last Thursday, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler dismissed the Washington Post report on the GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore saying there was an age gap between the biblical Joseph and Mary. “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” Zeigler told The Washington Examiner. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
Is Zeigler right?
In the Bible, Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Joseph became her husband. Beliefs about the specific story of Joseph and Mary and Jesus’s birth vary widely in Christian history and across traditions. Mary is referred to in scripture as a virgin, but there is disagreement about what that means. Generally, however, Christians believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. Joseph is usually referred to as Jesus’s father or a father figure.
The topic is addressed in the Gospel of Luke (1:26-38): “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.’” [Note: the gospel writer Luke never met Jesus. He was a physician and companion of Paul of Tarsus, who did not meet Jesus before his ascension to heaven but claimed to have seen him later in vision on his way to Damascus.]
How old was Mary when she was betrothed to Joseph? And how old was Joseph the carpenter?
The Bible does not state Mary and Joseph’s specific ages, but she is usually understood to be 12 years old girl when she married Joseph who was a much older man. According to Catholic Encyclopedia, Joseph was 90 years old then and was the father of six children, two daughters and four sons from a previous marriage. The youngest of his children was James who is mentioned in the gospels as “the Lord’s brother“. According to Christian apocryphal writings, Joseph died around 18 or 19 C.E. at the age of 111.
De Robigne Mortimer Bennett says that the apocryphal books ‘History of Joseph the Carpenter’ (Historia Josephi Fabri Lignari) and ‘Infancy Gospel of James’ which were believed to be genuine by Early Evangelical Church, confirm that Mary was only 12 years old when betrothed to Joseph, the carpenter. Not just that, he also mentions when Joseph married Mary he was 90 years old. Bernard L. Fontana also mentions that Mary was 12 years old and Joseph 90 years old when married:
The very advanced age of Joseph, marrying Mary, was true and accepted by most early Church Fathers. Reverend Jeremiah Jones writes about 2 to 3 pages long that Infancy Protevangelion of James was accepted by Early Church Fathers as the truthful account of Mary and Joseph’s marriage. If one reads the Infancy Gospel of James (Protevangelion of James), in Chapter 8 it says that Mary was married to Joseph when she was 12 years old.
Most early church fathers believed Mary was married off when she was 12 years old and Joseph the carpenter was a very old man. Here is the list of fathers who believed that Joseph was fourscore years old when he married 12-year-old Mary:
- Epiphanius (310 – 403AD)
- Hilary (Hilarius) of Poitiers (300 – 368AD)
- John Chrysostom (Born between 344 and 349 – Died 407 AD)
- Cyril of Alexandria (376 – 444 AD)
- Saint Euthymius the Great (377 – 473 AD)
- Theophylact of Ohrid (also known as Theophylact of Bulgaria) (1055 – 1107 AD)
- Eusebius (263 – 339 AD)
Is there a moral equivalence between Joseph’s marrying a much younger girl (Mary) and Judge Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct (with 14-18 old girls)?
Moore was 30 and single when he joined the district attorney’s office, his first government job after attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, serving in Vietnam, graduating from law school and working briefly as a lawyer in private practice in Gadsden, the county seat. By his account, chronicled in his book “So Help Me God,” Moore spent his time as a prosecutor convicting “murderers, rapists, thieves and drug pushers.” He writes that it was “around this time that I fashioned a plaque of The Ten Commandments on two redwood tablets.”
“I believed that many of the young criminals whom I had to prosecute would not have committed criminal acts if they had been taught these rules as children,” Moore writes.
In an email to supporters on Thursday, Moore told his supporters: “The forces of evil are on the march in our country. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message.” He wrote in his email to supporters. “That’s why I must be able to count on the help of God-fearing conservatives like you to stand with me at this critical moment.”
On Friday, Moore’s brother Jerry was quoted by CNN correspondent Martin Savidge comparing the accused judge to Jesus. “When I asked what does he believe the motivation is with these women coming forward making the accusations they have, again, Jerry Moore says it’s money and the Democratic Party, implying that they are doing this because they’re being paid in some way, and it is for the purpose of derailing or interrupting this campaign,” Savidge said. Jerry Moore added, “that his brother is being persecuted, in his own words, like Jesus Christ was.” “Their goal is to frustrate and slow down our campaign’s progress to help the Obama-Clinton Machine silence our conservative message.”
It is worth mentioning here that Alabama is one of the most solidly evangelical states in the country. According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of Alabama residents identify as Christian, and 49 percent are evangelical. White evangelicals have become much more likely to say a person who commits an “immoral” act can behave ethically in a public role. In 2011, 30 percent of these evangelicals said this, but that shot up to 72 percent, according to a survey published last year by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Earlier this year, Judge Moore received high-profile endorsements from conservative leaders such as psychologist and radio host James Dobson, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown.
Multiple evangelical leaders have slammed Alabama State Auditor Ziegler for comparing Judge Moore with Joseph the carpenter.
“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,” said Ed Stetzer, a pastor and church consultant who holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College. “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,” said the Rev. Amy Butler, senior minister of the Riverside Church, a historical and prominent interdenominational church in New York City. “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.”
As I have maintained elsewhere viewing things of the distant past with today’s lens and social norms are very problematic, and often wrong. In pre-modern days (and for that we need not turn our clock back to the first century of C.E., even the early 20th century is sufficient), it was quite normal for females to get married quite early, soon after their first menstrual cycle. So, when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was betrothed to Joseph at that tender age of 12, it was kosher per both the norms of the period and the Jewish law.
On the other hand, what Judge Moore did, if the allegations against him are true, are simply immoral. It is called fornication outside marriage, a charge which cannot be lobbed against Joseph the carpenter. What he did, if the allegations are true, are also illegal by the laws of his own state since the legal age of consent in Alabama, then and now, is 16. Under Alabama law in 1979, and today, a person who is at least 19 years old who has sexual contact with someone older than 12 and younger than 15 has committed sexual abuse in the second degree. Sexual contact is defined as touching of sexual or intimate parts. The crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
The law then and now also includes a section on enticing a child younger than 16 to enter a home with the purpose of proposing sexual intercourse or fondling of sexual and genital parts. That is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
As I see it, what Ziegler tried to do in support of Moore is a false equivalence. He is wrong trying to equate the case of Moore with that of Joseph. And so is Jerry when he tries to equate his brother’s troubles with those of Jesus. They ain’t the same!
It would, however, be wrong to single out Judge Moore for seemingly using his authority or power to make sexual advances on others. From the former president George H.W. Bush to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Louis C.K to Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and star Bill O’Reilly, let alone the current POTUS, the list is too long with such sex offenders who believe that they have the right to use their status to molest others. We truly have a pervasive culture of sexual misconduct and harassment. And the sad story is we live in a time when such abuses have become the new normal and are brushed off as unimportant things by our voters in the USA. The American voters chose Donald Trump, and Alabamans may do the same for Moore, unless he decides to withdraw from the senatorial election voluntarily. This voter apathy speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of America!
Can a nation lead others when it has lost its own moral compass?