In the heat of the mass media moment, there is a chance you overlooked the most disturbing revelation of recent weeks: Lack of mental discipline in America. Journalists have conflated allegations and hearsay with criminal conviction. A state auditor has compared 1970s dating habits to Bible stories. Never-Trumpers are filing in procession for their losing-your-soul-at-the-ballot box litany. These cases could decorate awareness posters for routine self-examination of our reasoning competence.
“Logic!” I can hear C.S. Lewis’s Professor Digory Kirke exclaiming. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?”
Because a prideful people fears being embarrassed more than it fears being wrong, you will likely see more voter shaming towards Alabama than critical thinking the remainder of this race. A hasty press has assumed the duty of shaming Alabama voters into submission.
But accusations of sexual assault are extremely serious, and thus require the purist of scrutiny to avoid false conviction in the jury of public opinion. In the spirit of the Lukan Preamble (Luke 1:1-4), it is time to investigate carefully.
The only claim for which we have reportedly independent, corroborating evidence is that Judge Roy Moore talked to and dated young, sometimes teenaged women when he was in his early thirties. (But the “mall creep” accusations have been challenged by additional witnesses whose accounts open the possibility that people may have confused Moore with someone else.)
While this may be distasteful to many twenty-first century Americans, it in itself is not evidence of pedophilic or predatory behavior. I have friends who as teenagers dated and married men who were in their thirties.
The CDC reports that in 1969, half of all first marriages in the Southern United States featured women under 20 years of age, and in nearly one-fifth of those marriages the women were under 18 years of age. But only around one-fifth of the corresponding men were below 20 years of age, indicating that most women who married as teens matched up with men relatively older than their immediate peers.
Hence, age disparity in dating was then, as now, a matter of individual discretion. There is a clear, gut-sensing difference between a man dating a teen woman, and a man hiding in the girl’s clothing rack at Wal-Mart and leering at my prepubescent little sister (yes, that happened). The latter is pedophilic, the former is not.
But the narrative quickly shifted to condemning that socialization itself as criminal evidence – perhaps because the serious accusations, when examined closely, have sandy foundations.
There are four retrospective claims of sexual misconduct against Moore, in which all the women say they waited years before mentioning their experiences to anyone, and all (with the possible exception of Gena Burgess Richardson) have reputations for being untrustworthy. That does not by default debunk their allegations, but it heightens the burden of proof.
Professor Kirke wouldn’t fault Alabamians for believing Moore over his accusers when the accusers are more known to us for being misleading than Moore (“Captain America” to his Vietnam troops) is known to us for being lecherous. That’s not to say either couldn’t behave out of character, and not to say that this matter couldn’t have been hidden from opposition research for forty years. But it isn’t illogical or self-serving to doubt the likelihood and thereby diminish the risk of egregious false accusation.
The lone violent allegation is that of Barbara Young Nelson, whose story at some points reads word for word like the story Sharon Bialek told about Herman Cain when it was her turn to speak next to Gloria Allred. A repeated claim in Nelson’s story is that Moore was Etowah County District Attorney. She claims he thus initialed his signature “D.A.” in her yearbook and wielded that title over her in a cartoonish villain description that is plainly bad script writing.
Moore never held that office. He was a deputy district attorney (or assistant district attorney) at the time, and certainly never wrote the letters “D.A.” after his signature. When they did appear they were the initials of his secretary, Delbra Adams, which she often affixed to official documents next to his stamped signature. This revelation undermines the authenticity of the yearbook, which alongside additional restaurant eyewitnesses shatters the credibility of Nelson’s story.
Leigh Corfman’s allegations are also shaky. The Washington Post narrative is that Corfman became a troubled teen after encountering Moore. In crafting it, WaPo omitted possible chronological and geographic discrepancies, and Corfman’s behavioral issues that prompted voluntary custody transfer from her mother in Gadsden to her father in Ohatchee, Alabama.
Furthermore, the criminality in Corfman’s story hinges upon Corfman’s age when the alleged fondling happened. By her own admission, Corfman was a reader of Harlequin Romance novels, which tend to revolve around a young woman catching the eye of an older man. WaPo reports ambiguously that while visiting Moore’s home, “at some point she told him she was 14.” Does this mean, if Corfman’s story occurred, that he had been given reason to believe otherwise? Why was this not the first thing he learned about her? The account begs questions.
Highlighting illogicality in the allegations against Moore does not constitute an attack on the accusers. Giving victims the benefit of the doubt does them and society no service if they’ve pegged the wrong man. Moore’s respect for women throughout his life is attested by multiple character witnesses, including an old war buddy who saw him walk away from a brothel despite peer pressure.
Some think Moore is a lawbreaker regardless, considering the two controversial scenarios in which he lost his seat as Alabama Chief Justice. In reality, Moore has such respect for the law of the people who elected him, that he (along with other Alabama Supreme Court justices) obeyed that law on the books. Obergefell v. Hodges served to overturn the marriage laws of some states, but Alabama’s were not yet among the laws challenged. Constitutional law probably bewilders a generation accustomed to instant gratification, but it has a process.
That was the same commission that removed Moore from office the first time, ultimately because an agnostic attorney complained to a U.S. judge, “I have to swallow my feelings every time I walk into the judicial building” since a Ten Commandments Monument was there. Never mind that the Alabama Constitution invokes Almighty God, and the Ten Commandments can be seen in U.S. court adornments.
Having a deeper respect for the Ten Commandments than the average person, it would be astoundingly hypocritical for Moore to be a covert fornicator and lie about it. The nature of hypocrisy is what carves more doubt in the allegations. Hypocrisy is about power. Plenty of people are hypocrites for the sake of preserving their power. It makes no sense for a hypocrite to surrender power for the sake of what they don’t truly believe, which is what Moore would have been doing when he was removed from office if he is in fact a hypocrite.
I have interacted with Moore in person multiple times over the years, and have encountered nothing less than honorable and modest behavior. What actually happened four decades ago has not been determined. It is doubtful that the purported victims even recall for certain what Moore had, if anything, to do with their troubled lives two generations prior.
Alabamians should not be shamed for evaluating a statesman by whom we know him to be now, as opposed to whom he is alleged to have been many years in the past.
HEADER IMAGE: Political Cartoon by Amanda Read. Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere.