Prominent evangelical leader Ed Stetzer has denounced the use of the relationship between the biblical Mary and Joseph to dismiss the sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that a woman had accused Moore of attempting to initiate a sexual encounter with her when she was a 14-year-old girl and he was 32 years old.
In an attempt to defend the senatorial candidate, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler invoked Mary and Joseph to suggest that the Moore had done nothing wrong even if the allegations were true.
"He's clean as a hound's tooth," Ziegler told the Washington Examiner. "Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became the parents of Jesus... There's just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual," he added.
Stetzer, a pastor and church consultant who chairs the Billy Graham Center of Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College, denounced Ziegler's attempt to defend Moore, saying it is "blasphemous" to compare Mary and Joseph's situation to the scandal.
"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.... Even those who followed ancient marriage customs, which we would not follow today, knew the difference between molesting and marriage," the pastor said, as reported by AL.com.
Rev. Amy Butler, senior minister of the historic Riverside Church in New York City, also criticized Ziegler for equating the allegations against Moore with the relationship between Mary and Joseph.
"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," she said.
The woman accusing the senatorial candidate, Leigh Corfman, said that the encounter took place in 1979 after Moore arranged a meeting with her at his home in the woods.
Corfman narrated that during her second visit, Moore touched her over her bra and underpants and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
Three other women had claimed that Moore tried to court them at the time, when they were between 16 and 18 years old.
Moore, who is Southern Baptist, had denied the allegations against him, claiming that it is just a "desperate political attack" by the National Democrat Party. He admitted that he may have dated girls in their late teens during that time in his life, but insisted that there was no inappropriate sexual behavior.
Some Republican politicians have distanced themselves from Moore, and have called on him to step aside from the race if the report is true.
Moore, however, has shown no signs of backing out of the race despite waning support from politicians who previously endorsed him.