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Bible scholars take issue with Moore's defender

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 5:39 PM
Updated: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 5:38 PM


            Roy Moore, Republican nominee for Senate, speaks at an endorsement event on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala. Thirteen Alabama Sheriff's endorsed Moore. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
Roy Moore, Republican nominee for Senate, speaks at an endorsement event on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala. Thirteen Alabama Sheriff's endorsed Moore. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

An Alabama state official is citing the Bible to defend the Republican U.S. Senate candidate accused of sexual advances on girls. State auditor Jim Ziegler says "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter," suggesting that Roy Moore acted in a divine tradition if he in fact made sexual advances toward a 14-year-old girl.

Theologians and pastors, among others, expressed revulsion that Mary and Joseph would be used to counter allegations of sexual misbehavior with a minor. They also said Ziegler got the facts wrong and ignored the cultural context of the time in which Jesus lived.

"If this is evangelicalism, I'm on the wrong team," the evangelical commentator Ed Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today. "But it is not. Christians don't use Joseph and Mary to explain child molesting accusations."

Moore, a 70-year-old former state Supreme Court justice, flatly denied allegations of decades-old sexual advances on girls, published Thursday in a Washington Post story. The accounts by multiple women prompted Republican lawmakers to say he should end his candidacy for the Dec. 12 special election if the allegations are true. "I have never engaged in sexual misconduct," Moore said Friday.

But Ziegler was dismissive about the fuss. "There's just nothing immoral or illegal here," he told the Washington Examiner. "Maybe just a little bit unusual."

Rev. Jim Martin, editor at large of the Jesuit magazine America, tweeted Friday that "comparing the allegations against Roy Moore in any way to Joseph and Mary is disgusting." Martin said: "We have no idea about the exact ages of either the Virgin Mary or St. Joseph at the time of their betrothal or marriage."

The Bible does not state the ages of Joseph and Mary, agrees Margaret M. Mitchell, a professor of early Christian literature and the New Testament at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Under ancient norms and apparently under first century Roman and Jewish law, she said, it was apparently common for girls 12 and older to be betrothed, though practice varied by region, social class and more.

She said the earliest text to mention Mary's age is "The Infancy Gospel of James," which she describes as "a clearly legendary text that is trying to expand on the gospel accounts." That non-authoritative text placed Mary's age at 12 when she conceived and it cited supposed evidence of her enduring virginity to demonstrate she conceived Jesus without sexual intercourse.

Similarly, Mitchell said by email, "We have no idea how old the historical Joseph was, though a tradition that he was very old developed in the second century and beyond." The point of that, too, was to support the idea of the virgin birth — Joseph perhaps being too old to impregnate Mary.

Such theories were "fanciful expansions on the Gospel narratives," Mitchell said. But they add a "veneer of solemnity ... that may allow a modern Christian like Mr Z (Ziegler) to gloss over what it means for a 12 or 14 year old girl to be viewed as and used as a sexual vessel."

Martin, in tweets, said: "Joseph is often depicted in art as older than Mary, in fact, considerably older, so as to make him seem less 'sexualized,' and to emphasize Mary's virginity. But, in fact, both Mary and Joseph could have been the same age."

Leigh Corfman told the Post she was 14 when Moore first approached her and took her to his home twice, the second time touching her over her bra and panties and having her touch him over his underwear. The Post quoted three other women who said he pursued them when they were 16 to 18 and he was in his early 30s. He denies the women's reports and says he won't quit the race.

If the Bible is not clear on the subject, the law is: Alabama's legal age of consent then and now is 16 and adults cannot touch children sexually or entice them into a home for that purpose.

___

AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.

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House Oversight Committee launches probe into Rob Porter's employment

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM

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The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.

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Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.

Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.

Porter has denied any wrongdoing.

"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”

Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.

The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.

“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”

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Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.

White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.

“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with White House Secretary Rob Porter (C) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R) as they return to the White House December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.

Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.

Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.

She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.

The couple was divorced in 2013.

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Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

File image of the American flag.
Christopher Bruno, Freeimages
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A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.

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In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.

In a Facebook review of the nursing home, Dorn thanked the "caring, accommodating and selfless" staff who she said treated her father like family. Dorn wrote, "They treated my Dad with dignity and respect from the first moment there until he drew his last breath, then sent him off with a hero's procession."

The video has received more than 3 million views.

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