A Grain Of Saul: What Roy Moore's Defenders Should Know

It's time we held ourselves to higher standards.

A Grain of Saul is a weekly column that digs into some of the biggest issues we face as a nation and as an international community in search of reliable data, realistic solutions, and — most importantly — hope.  

As allegations broke that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore made sexual advances on teenagers as young as 14 while he was in his early and mid-30s, an interesting defense arose around the former judge's alleged actions.

Moore, as The Gateway Pundit pointed out, was acting within the boundaries of the law when — as a 32-year-old attorney — he allegedly approached, flirted with, and eventually made a sexual advance on a 14-year-old girl. The conservative publication pointed out that at 14 years old, the accuser Leigh Corfman was two years older than the age of consent in Alabama at that time. (Moore, for his part, denies the allegations.)



You'd be hard-pressed to find someone defending that legal age of consent in 2017, and I imagine it'd be harder to find someone justifying a 12-year-old girl dating a 32-year-old man. In fact, The Gateway Pundit itself has run articles criticizing older men dating teenagers, but it only seems to offend when it happens in a predominantly Muslim country. Today, if a 32-year-old had sex with a 14-year-old in Alabama, they'd go to jail.

Despite that, though, The Gateway Pundit's talking point gained some traction. Breitbart editor Joel Pollak essentially took the same stance on national television (twice), saying that the allegations about Moore's conduct with Corfman should be separated from the allegations by women who were, at the time, slightly older teenagers,  since the age of consent in Alabama is now 16. Of course, this argument misses the entire point: the fact Moore allegedly had relationships with 14-year-olds and 16-year-olds while he was in his 30s seem to show a pattern of him seeking out and preying on young, teenage girls. Nevertheless, on Twitter and Facebook, Moore supporters hid behind the same defense: even if he did it, it was legal.

So let's be clear about something: legality does not equal morality. Plenty of laws in the history of the United States have been morally repugnant. The fact slavery, segregation, Japanese-American internment camps, and spousal rape have all been legal in this country is nauseating. If your defense of your own or someone else's actions boils down to, "well, it was legal," then whatever you did was — in all likelihood — a morally bankrupt action. 

I'm not here to say that something being legal and being moral shouldn't be synonymous — I'm just saying that they aren't. As a nation, we need to hold ourselves to higher standards than the law. That doesn't mean acting outside of it — Moore might argue his refusal to issue gay marriage licenses was a moral decision he made outside the law — it means acting better than it. Hitting on a teenage girl when you're a grown man because you know it isn't punishable by a prison sentence can be both legal and immoral. Plenty of reprehensible actions are still technically legal in parts of the United States, including hiding tax money in offshore accounts, police profiling, and cannibalism.

In this political climate, making the ceiling of our goodness what's legally allowed is a disservice to ourselves and all Americans. If Moore and his supporters are honest about these allegations — and the mounting pile of evidence that they may be true — the legal circumstances of his actions would be a moot point. We should be simultaneously holding our elected officials to the highest moral and legal standards. When choosing a person to represent the United States of America in Congress, a court of law is unnecessary. The court of public opinion is perfectly capable of making a judgment on Moore and others in high office accused of misconduct, and it should.

And for the sake of our country and our consciences, we must judge correctly.

For more, you can follow @Ike_Saul on Twitter.

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