Four women last week told the Washington Post that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama had sexual or romantic encounters with them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s.
Still, Moore has threatened to sue the Post.
“The Washington Post published another attack on my character and reputation because they are desperate to stop my political campaign,” he said during a campaign speech Sunday night. “These attacks said I was with a minor child and are false and untrue — and for which they will be sued.”
On Monday, high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred announced a news conference with a new accuser, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the women’s allegations and that Moore “should step aside.”
Moore, known for his socially conservative politics, shot back, saying McConnell is the one who should step aside.
Like McConnell, Kathryn Brightbill isn’t shrugging off the allegations against Moore. The Christian writer and blogger tweeted that it’s time to talk.
Brightbill, who was home-schooled from first grade to high school graduation, pointed out in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times why some people are not bothered by the allegations.
“We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose: He pursued a 14-year-old-girl without first getting her parents’ permission, and he initiated sexual contact outside of marriage,” wrote Brightbill.
“That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.”
She and others have written in recent days that the Moore allegations shine light on condoned and promoted practices in some fundamentalist evangelical religious circles of girls marrying as teenagers. Brightbill is a legislative policy analyst at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a nonprofit advocating for the interests of home-schooled children.
In recent days, a quote from 2009 by “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson has resurfaced.
At a Sportsmen’s Ministry talk, Robertson reportedly suggested that the perfect age for a girl to get married is 15 — as long as she can cook.
“Make sure that she can cook a meal, you need to eat some meals that she cooks, check that out,” he said, according to media reports. “Make sure she carries her Bible. That’ll save you a lot of trouble down the road. And if she picks your ducks, now, that’s a woman.”
Robertson’s wife, Kay, was reportedly 16 when they married in 1966. He was four years older.
“In the wake of recent revelations about Roy Moore, it is worth noting a not insignificant portion of conservatives don’t have a problem with relationships between very young teens and adult men,” Christian blogger Libby Anne wrote last week in a Patheos essay titled “Child brides, teenage sluts and Roy Moore.”
“I am not saying that every conservative, or every evangelical, views things this way. That is thankfully not the case. This view, however, is out there. It is not as fringe or isolated as it should be, and it is shaping some of the response to (the) allegations against Roy Moore.”
Brightbill referenced Vaughn Ohlman, a popular speaker on the home-school convention circuit and advocate for child marriages.
Last year his Let Them Marry ministry tried to hold a “Get Them Married” retreat in Kansas for families wanting “young, fruitful marriages” for children.
But after Raw Story wrote an article about the ministry, the Wichita venue the group had chosen refused to rent it to them, and the seminar was canceled.
Ohlman told The Wichita Eagle in an email that his website was devoted to “the idea of Christians focusing more on young, fruitful, Godly marriages – getting rid of some of so many of the obstacles that stand in the way.”
Some girls, the website touted, should marry as young as age 13. Ohlman wrote that a girl was ready for marriage when she had breasts, which “promise enjoyment for her husband,” and should be ready to have sexual intercourse and bear children.
The “Let Them Marry” website has been shut down, apparently just in recent months.
“The modern christian church is under dramatic attack, particularly in the area of marriage. One way that this has expressed itself is in a lack of marriages themselves. Our ministry was created to address this lack,” a message on the homepage reads.
“However over the last couple of years we have tried to restart this site, but everyone of us has been too busy. In addition we have become convinced that an online ministry might not be best for the kind of ministry that is needed.
“So we are shutting down this website and moving on to other areas of ministry. We hope and pray that God will continue to use us in ‘offline’ ministry.”
Blogger Libby Anne, now an atheist, grew up in a large, evangelical, home-schooled family, according to her online bio.
After the allegations against Moore came out, a 2013 blog post she wrote about a young girl named Maranatha began making the rounds again.
The girl’s story was almost legendary in home-school circles — how Maranatha married a 28-year-old man when she was 15. Her husband-to-be approached her father about pursuing a relationship with her when she was 13.
“This age difference may seem appalling to those in secular circles, but within conservative evangelical circles it made sense,” Libby Anne wrote. “At 28, Matthew would be able to provide for his wife. And by marring at 15, Maranatha would avoid any potential sexual sin she might encounter if she did not marry until her mid-twenties.”
Libby Anne wrote that as a teenager she once attended a lecture on courtship by a popular home-school speaker; she did not name him.
“He praised the idea of “early courtship” so the girl could be molded into the best possible helpmeet for her future husband,” she wrote.
“In retrospect, I understand what the speaker was really describing: Adult men selecting and grooming girls who were too young to have life experience. Another word for that is ‘predation,’” or preying.