Pastor and Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College in Illinois, Ed Stetzer, has slammed the use of the biblical Mary and Joseph's relationship to defend Southern Baptist Alabama Judge Roy Moore against allegations that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32, and other evangelicals share his outrage.
"Bringing Joseph and Mary into a modern-day molestation accusation, where a 32-year-old prosecutor is accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, is simultaneously ridiculous and blasphemous," Stetzer, told AL.com. "Even those who followed ancient marriage customs, which we would not follow today, knew the difference between molesting and marriage."
Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler invoked the holy family in his defense of Moore after The Washington Post reported allegations of romantic dates between the Republican candidate for Alabama's upcoming special Senate election and four teenagers decades ago, including the 14-year-old.
"Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist," Ziegler continued.
"Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus," he added. "There's just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual."
Leigh Corfman alleges in The Washington Post report that she was 14 years old in early 1979 when she met Moore as she waited outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Alabama.
Moore who was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney at the time offered to watch Corfman while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing the report said.
Moore asked Corfman for her number when they were alone and days later he arranged a meeting with her at his home in the woods. He allegedly told her how pretty she was and kissed her during that first rendezvous.
During a second visit Corfman alleged that Moore took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. She said he touched her over her bra and underpants and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
"I wanted it over with — I wanted out," she recalled thinking. "Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over." She asked him to take her home after that and he complied.
Russell Moore (no relation), president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted about an hour after the Washington Examiner story came out, "Whether in the hills of Hollywood or the halls of power, it doesn't matter. This is true: sexual assault and child molestation are evil, unjust, satanic."
He then added, "I am heartbroken by how often I hear of women and girls who've been assaulted and abused, and didn't feel they could go to their church for help. This should not be."
On Friday, Moore tweeted a link to a 2011 article he wrote about Joseph, noting, "Here's who Joseph really was."
Rev. Amy Butler, senior minister of the historic Riverside Church in New York City also criticized Ziegler's comparison with Moore's behavior and the relationship between Mary and Joseph.
"Women were chattel back then, they were traded — of course they married men who were much older and had multiple wives," she said. "It's completely ludicrous to equate the sex assault of a minor with an ancient culture. It's ludicrous . . . It makes me want to rip the church back from these people."
Moore has denied the allegations against him as "completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign."
He also sent out a fundraising email to his supporters asking them to help him fight against evil and stand up for conservative values.
"I believe you and I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values," the email from the Moore campaign said. "So will you take a stand by chipping in a donation to let me know you've got my back in our all-out war against the Obama-Clinton Machine?"