Columns Government & Politics Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Politics

Roy Moore v. the Ninth Commandment

Roy Moore and the Ten Commandments monument that he had placed in the Alabama state judicial building.

It will come as no surprise to readers of this column that we are not a fan of Roy Moore. Indeed, from his judicial flouting of federal court orders to his hostility towards gays and Muslims to his proclivity for messing with teenaged girls, we take a rather dim view of the would-be U.S. senator from Alabama.

Still, every now and then it behooves us, as Jesus said, to walk two miles with folks we’d just as soon not have to walk one mile with, among whom are Moore’s evangelical supporters.

So far as they’re concerned, standing up for Christian values, as Roy does, means standing up for the world as it once knew it ought to be — free not just of same-sex marriage and transgender bathrooms but of all those other bad things enjoined by the Bible. The very thought of casting a ballot for Democrat is, for them, tantamount to going to an abortionist.

Which brings us to the saga of Moore and the women who say that when they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney he hung around them, took them on dates, and/or forced them into unwanted sexual contact. However you slice it, this implicates the Ninth (or in some versions the Eighth) Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

For either the women are bearing false witness against their one-time neighbor in Etowah county, or he is bearing false witness against them.

Initially, Moore seemed to acknowledge some of what the women had to say, allowing as how he knew a couple of those who had come forward and saying he couldn’t remember whether he’d dated them or not. More recently, however, he has nixed all ambiguity.

As he put it at a church in Lower Alabama Nov. 29, “Let me state once again: I do not know any of these women, did not date any of these women and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone.”

This blanket denial has not sat well with the women, several of whom have issued new statements. On Monday, the Washington Post published a story (plus video) featuring one of them, Debbie Wesson Gibson, who says she openly dated Moore when she was 17, later joined him in passing out flyers when he was running for circuit judge, and exchanged Christmas cards with him for years.

Last week, Gibson said, she was in her attic retrieving Christmas decorations when she came upon her old high school scrapbook. In it were notes from Moore and her own written memories of dating him, all of which she decided to make public after watching the video of his Nov. 29 remarks.

“He called me a liar,” Gibson told the Post. “Roy Moore made an egregious mistake to attack that one thing — my integrity.”

At issue is both what Moore is alleged to have done four decades ago and the testimony he’s offering about it today. If his evangelical supporters walk a couple of miles with Debbie Wesson Gibson, they will know him for the liar she says he is.

And if they go out and vote for him anyway, they will be betraying exactly what they think they’re standing for.


About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service