I’ve been working in politics and media since the 2008 election cycle and I naively keep thinking I can’t be shocked anymore, and then people like Pastor Earl Wise prove me wrong.

Wise, a pastor from Millbrook, Alabama, is a defender of Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate who is facing numerous allegations that he inappropriately pursued teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his thirties, including one allegation that he sexually molested a 14-year-old girl (below the legal age of consent), and attempted to rape another 16-year-old girl.

Because the story was originally published in the Washington Post, many defenders of Moore attacked the story as yet another example of liberal media bias. As many of the responses in my Twitter feed cry out: “Fake News!”

As additional women stepped forward to accuse Moore, the “But Gorsuch!” defense that was used to excuse Donald Trump’s comments on the Access Hollywood tape and alleged sexual assaults was adapted for Moore. Voting for an immoral person — even a sexual predator — was permissible, so these defenders claim, because their vote on abortion issues will cleanse away all sins.

As the Boston Globe noted, a growing number of evangelical Christians are willing to forgive politicians’ moral failings:

Six years ago, just 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants believed an elected official “who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties” as a public servant, according to The Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit polling firm focused on faith issues.

In 2016, that number skyrocketed to 72 percent.

Pastor Earl Wise is clearly in that 72 percent. When interviewed about the accusations against Moore for the Globe article, Wise called the women liars with imaginations run amok, accused them of getting paid, and then added a comment scoffing at statutory rape laws:

“I don’t know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they’re getting a healthy sum,” said pastor Earl Wise, a Moore supporter from Millbrook, Ala.

Wise said he would support Moore even if the allegations were true and the candidate was proved to have sexually molested teenage girls and women.

“There ought to be a statute of limitations on this stuff,” Wise said. “How these gals came up with this, I don’t know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line.

“Plus,” he added, “there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20.”

“They must have had some sweet dreams”?

Beverly Young Nelson, the 16-year-old, says that she was “terrified” when Moore tried to rape her in his car behind a restaurant and that he left bruises on her neck that she had to cover with makeup.

Nelson also says Moore threatened her: “You’re just a child and I am the District Attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.”

That’s no sweet dream; that’s a nightmare.

The story of Leigh Corfman, the 14-year-old, is another nightmare, and illustrates the very reason we have statutory rape laws.

Saying that the encounter with Moore left Corfman feeling “guilty” and blaming herself, it took “decades before I was able to let that go.”

“I was a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult’s world and he was 32 years old,” said Corfman.

Exactly. She was a child. We have age of consent laws because an underage person’s mind is too immature to make adult decisions, whether that might be signing a legal contract or entering into an adult sexual relationship.

Wise’s argument that some 14-year-olds “could pass for 20” ignores this entire foundation for statutory rape laws and falls back on a tiresome “blame the victim” tactic. Pretty girl like that, with that lovely figure, she must have tempted a good Christian man like Judge Moore into sin. Gadsden, Alabama was apparently just crawling with these teenage Jezebels.

Despicable.

It is very telling how often these Moore defenders start by claiming that the women are all lying, but then quickly pivot to attempting to attack the women, to say they aren’t as important people as Moore and therefore they don’t matter, and then end up saying it’s fine if the accusations are true, because partisan tribalism is more important than morality.

It’s one thing when a political figure defends a candidate facing immorality issues, and another thing altogether when a so-called pastor does the same. I expect political hackery from the political hacks. Our religious leaders should be encouraging us to be moral people.

As a member of an evangelical Christian church myself, it is heartbreaking to hear pastors twisting Scripture to justify abusing vulnerable children and young women. A few lightning bolts doing a little smiting here and there might be a helpful reminder, since they clearly have forgotten the lessons of Matthew 18:2-6.

Photo by skyseeker via Flickr (Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic).  

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker