The freedom of religion, one assumes, includes being allowed to take some pleasure in the fact karma can be rough.
And some serious karma is what’s being dished up to, among others, Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee. The self-described constitutional scholar outed himself as a legal know-nothing by supporting the candidacy of disgraced Alabama judge Roy Moore for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Moore was twice ousted from the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to obey the rulings of the federal courts. Once for refusing to remove his monument of the Christian Ten Commandments from his courthouse. Once for refusing to recognize the marriage equality rulings of the Supreme Court.
Moore is a font of frankly outrageous statements about how Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress and how the First Amendment freedom of religion only covers the Christian religion. He thinks evolution is fake and that homosexuality should be illegal. And he’s one of those who thinks Barack Obama was born in Africa.
But, if he were to be elected to fill the seat vacated when Jefferson Beauregard Sessions became attorney general, Moore would help the Republicans hold their margin in the Senate. That, apparently, was enough to convince Lee to support a man whose views make the 19th century look bad, calling him “a proven, conservative fighter” with a “tested reputation of integrity.”
Thursday, that reputation of integrity (which never really existed) was damaged by a report by The Washington Post that Moore is, or was, a sleazoid who once sexually pursued a 14-year-old girl and other teenagers.
Moore denies it all. Other Alabama Republicans are performing extreme contortions to explain it away or sort of forgive it by making up stories about Mary and Joseph.
Thursday, Lee was one of the many Republican politicians to say that Moore should step aside “if the allegations are true.” Lee also doesn’t want his image or his previous words of support used on any more of Moore’s campaign materials. Like the fund-raising appeal that Moore had the nerve to send out Thursday in direct defiance of the latest reports about him.
Friday, Lee went to Twitter to renounce his endorsement altogether.
As this is written, Moore is refusing to exit the race. It is too late for the Republicans to put a new candidate on the ballot for the Dec. 12 special election. So Moore may yet get elected.
It all recalls the old, and not very funny, joke from Edwin Edwards, the scandal-plagued but indomitable governor of Louisiana. He bragged, on his way to winning a comeback election in 1983, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”
Of course some of us are overwhelmed with schadenfreude — pleasure in another person’s pain — when someone who holds himself up as a paragon of moral virtue tempts the gods just a little too much and turns out to be a perfect example of immoral behavior.
Others may be confused about how people on the other side of the culture wars — people who, in their view, have no morals at all — can call anybody on their immorality. That’s what happens when those who are offended by sex in mass media, sex outside marriage, same-sex marriage, independent and powerful women and contraception or abortion wonder how people who are fine with all those things can even argue about morals.
It happens when the central question of whether something is moral comes down to a matter of consent. Consent to sexual activity. Consent to choosing, or rejecting, a religion, to being honest about one’s sexual orientation, even to changing gender identity.
Consent that minors or people in any kind of diminished capacity are not able to give.
Consent that an avalanche of women, and some men, are now realizing they did not give and thus were sexually and otherwise abused by the rich and powerful. Or just by someone older and bigger. And who are now, in numbers too big to ignore, speaking out about it.
This is how the open-minded and free-spirited, from Boomers to Millennials, retain the right to find some kinds of behavior immoral, disgraceful or just plain creepy. Because it overrides another’s personal space and whatever boundaries or sense of dignity that person would choose for themselves.
Thus is it not at all surprising to find that someone with Roy Moore’s views on rights and freedom and religion is also a sexual predator. And that, even if he weren’t, it was wrong to back him for elective office, and those who did probably won’t get half the payback they deserve.
George Pyle, the Tribune’s editorial page editor, finds value in George Bernard Shaw’s version of The Golden Rule: Do not do onto others as you would have them do onto you. Their tastes may not be the same. email@example.com