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Christian conservatives standing by Roy Moore

Profile image for Jay Reeves
Jay Reeves, Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Alabama's Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn't fit the evangelical mold.

The Republican Senate candidate has long stood with them, and now, as he faces accusations of sexual impropriety including the molestation of a 14-year-old girl, they are standing with him.

That steadfastness is shocking to many outside Alabama who wonder how any voter who claims to be Christian can stand with a man accused of such acts. The answer is both complicated and deeply rooted in the DNA of a state that prides itself on bucking norms.

The state's motto -- "We dare defend our rights" -- is an upfront acknowledgment of a fighting spirit that has put Alabamians at odds with the rest of the nation for generations.

Perhaps more importantly, there is a deep-seated trust that leaves many willing to accept Moore's denials and discount the word of women speaking out weeks before the Dec. 12 election after decades of public silence. For some, Moore is more like a biblical prophet speaking out for God than a politician.

Introducing Moore during a "God Save America" rally at a south Alabama church this week, pastor Mike Allison said his support wasn't wavering because Moore never has.

"He has staunchly defended the Constitution of the United States, he has stood for the word of God ... he is against the murder of the unborn by abortion. He is for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. He is against a redefinition of marriage and believes firmly that it is only between a man and a woman. And he is against all threats against the traditional family," Allison said. "He is a fighter and a champion for right ..."

Since the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, leading Washington Republicans -- though not President Donald Trump -- have abandoned him.

At home, polls have shown a tightening race as some otherwise loyal GOP voters publicly disavow Moore on social media; GOP Sen. Richard Shelby has said he will write in someone rather than vote for Moore.

Yet Moore still holds almost magical appeal for many. Fearful of angering Moore's supporters, the Alabama GOP has stuck with him, and voters like Larry Gibbs are putting their confidence in the Vietnam veteran long known as the "Ten Commandments judge," for putting shrines to the commandments in his courtroom and then in the Supreme Court rotunda.

"He comes up here to the church and he's quoting Scripture and he relates to us," said Gibbs, who attended the pro-Moore rally where Allison spoke.

Even a relative of one of Moore's accusers is publicly siding with Moore.

"He fought like hell to keep the Ten Commandments in the damn courthouse," said a Facebook Live video by Darrel Nelson. Nelson said his father, John Alan Nelson, is married to Beverly Young Nelson, who publicly accused Moore of sexually assaulting her as a teen.

FEATURED PHOTO: Then-Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore holds his Bible during a speech in 2003 at the Barrow County Courthouse in Winder, Ga. Moore drew rounds of applause as he spoke in support of the framed Ten Commandments in the courthouse breezeway. (Ric Feld/AP)