One of President Donald Trump’s faith advisers defended scandal-ridden Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore on Thursday morning — saying accusations that the former judge allegedly sexually abused minors are “suspicious,” and comparing Moore autographing Bibles to a woman healed by Jesus Christ.
During an appearance on MSNBC Thursday, South Carolina pastor and vocal Trump supporter Mark Burns was asked to comment on the growing list of allegations against the former judge, which include reportedly being banned from a mall for his predatory behavior. Burns expressed doubt about the claims, saying Moore is a “very strong Christian conservative” and that the accusations amount to a “character assassination.”
“Today it’s Judge Moore. Tomorrow it could be you,” Burns said.
But MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle fired back: “It can’t be me tomorrow because when I was in my 30s, I didn’t get banned from a mall. I wasn’t calling girls out of class [or] dating girls under 18 so no, it is not possible for it to ever be me.”
The increasingly tense interview eventually took a sharp theological turn after Burns, a pastor, referred to himself as a “man of faith.” Ruhle responded by asking how Burns feels about Moore reportedly signing Bibles on the campaign trail—a legacy of his status as a crusader for what is often called Christian nationalism.
“As a Christian who doesn’t believe in false Christians or idol, what’s your view on Roy Moore autographing Bibles? Would Jesus do that?” Rule asked.
Burns noted that he wouldn’t personally want a Bible signed by Moore, but compared his autographed holy books to a woman in the Bible who was healed of her disease by touching the cloak of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus, the Bible…had the issue of blood, she reached out and she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment,” Burns said. “She never touched Jesus but she touched his hem. In other word, she touched his cloths. It was her faith that healed her. She never touched his body, she touched his cloth. If it increases somebody’s faith, whether it be a piece of cloth, there’s no voodoo or special power in these artifacts. Whether it be a signature—if it increases somebody’s faith to believe Moore and the faith of the lord Jesus Christ, than so be it.”
Pastor Mark Burns: Today it's Judge Moore. Tomorrow it could be you.
.@SRuhle: It can't be me tomorrow because when I was in my 30s, I didn't get banned from a mall. I wasn't calling girls out of class [or] dating girls under 18 so no, it is not possible for it to ever be me. pic.twitter.com/OQLZ975ESI
— Melanie Schmitz (@MelsLien) November 16, 2017
Burns’ theological argument was not immediately clear. The Bible story in question—which is referenced in three different Gospels—involves a woman whose hemorrhaging is miraculously healed after she pushed through a crowd to touch Jesus’s garment, after which Christ tells her “your faith has made you well.” The story does not state that touching the cloak “increases” the woman’s faith in the way Burns says a Bible autographed by Moore would. On the contrary, Jesus’ words imply that it was her faith that made her pursue Jesus in the first place.
The claim is but the latest in a series of odd religious arguments that conservatives have recently used to defend Moore’s alleged predatory behavior.
When allegations were first made about Moore sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl while in his 30s, Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler turned to the Bible to suggest it’s not a problem for adult men to have relationships with minors, noting “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter.” The argument was roundly condemned by faith voices and Bible scholars from across the religious and political spectrum: many noted, for instance, that Joseph and Mary’s ages are not listed in the Bible.
But the theological arguments continued. Around the same time, Jerry Moore—Roy Moore’s brother—compared the embattled candidate to Christ, saying he was being “persecuted like Jesus Christ was.”