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Friday, Dec 15, 2017
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Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama's Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama's Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn't fit the evangelical mold.

The Republican Senate candidate has long stood with them, and now, as he faces accusations of sexual impropriety including the molestation of a 14-year-old girl, they are standing with him.

That steadfastness is shocking to many outside Alabama who wonder how any voter who claims to be Christian can stand with a man accused of such acts. The answer is both complicated and deeply rooted in the DNA of a state that prides itself on bucking norms.

The state's motto — "We dare defend our rights" — is an up-front acknowledgement of a fighting spirit that has put Alabamians at odds with the rest of the nation for generations.

Perhaps more importantly, there is a deep-seated trust that leaves many willing to accept Moore's denials and discount the word of women speaking out weeks before the Dec. 12 election after decades of public silence. For some, Moore is more like a biblical prophet speaking out for God than a politician.

Since the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, leading Washington Republicans — though not President Donald Trump — have abandoned him.

At home, polls have shown a tightening race as some otherwise loyal GOP voters publicly disavow Moore on social media; GOP Sen. Richard Shelby has said he will write in someone rather than vote for Moore.

Yet Moore still holds almost magical appeal for many. Fearful of angering Moore's supporters, the Alabama GOP has stuck with him. Even a relative of one of Moore's accusers is publicly siding with Moore.

"He fought like hell to keep the Ten Commandments in the damn courthouse," said a Facebook live video by Darrel Nelson. Nelson said his father, John Alan Nelson, is married to Beverly Young Nelson, who publicly accused Moore of sexually assaulting her as a teen.

Moore is polarizing — a big reason his fans like him — and local opponents see him as a Bible-thumping opportunist playing on people's religion. Moore lost badly in bids for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2006 and 2010.

Moore was considered an odd loner by fellow members of his cadet company at West Point. A yearbook passage from the academy referred to Moore as an "individualist by nature" who was worthy of respect "among those who really know him."

With a conservative view of religion at his core, Moore fought the American Civil Liberties Union over courtroom prayer and the wooden Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom and rode the publicity to election as Alabama's chief justice.

He was removed from the job twice for violating state judicial ethics — once for ignoring a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's judicial building and again over opposing gay marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized it.

Conservative backers view those ousters as badges of honor. Longtime Moore supporter John Giles said Moore doesn't bend or change, and his voters value that.

"Every election cycle there's this tendency among the electorate to say, 'Let's get rid of these rascals. They say one thing and govern another way,' " said Giles, who runs a super PAC that supports Moore. "The one thing about this man is what he says he means, and at all cost."

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