“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.” – Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler in the Washington Examiner, November 9, 2017
No no no no no.
Before we get into this, I just want to make sure I am absolutely clear. This is not a piece about Roy Moore. This is not a repudiation of the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and Senatorial candidate, although by now I’m sure you can probably guess which way I would vote in that election were I an Alabaman.
This is a piece about common sense.
Nor is this piece meant to impinge upon Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler’s right to free speech, his right to express his opinion, or his right to freedom of religion. As an American, Mr. Ziegler has the right to express himself exactly as he sees fit. Of that, there can be no question.
This piece is about responsibility.
When I was a kid, like so many other nerds of my generation, I was a voracious consumer of Marvel comic books, and there is something written by comic writer and publisher Stan Lee that has always stayed with me, even as I studied the intricacies of political science in college and have navigated the burdens of adulthood. “With great power,” Lee wrote, “comes great responsibility.” It is as indisputable a lesson as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “It’s the economy, stupid,” and “When in doubt, reboot.”
As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as a highly evolved people, living in a civilized society. By and large, we abide by the rule of law, and acknowledge the wisdom in doing so. We agree on basic tenets of decorum and morality. Because of that agreement, we allow ourselves a bounty of freedoms, including the aforementioned use of free speech. Nobody can be arrested and put into jail by the United States government simply because of something they say, unless that statement is so incendiary as to cause a riot or do great bodily harm to an individual. But words are powerful, especially when they come from the office of an elected official. Words are powerful when they appear in the pages of a free press. And words are powerful when they are repeated again and again. In short, free speech is a great power and must be used responsibly. Mr. Ziegler’s comments about Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Roy Moore fall short of that incendiary/illegal threshold, but are as far beyond the bounds of common sense and responsible behavior as any statement can be.
Mr. Ziegler wants you, the American public, to know that Roy Moore’s behavior as a 32 year old man toward a 14 year old girl, whom he allegedly undressed and fondled while encouraging her to do the same to him, is all right because of a story that took place more than 2000 years ago.
I want you to know that in 2017, or even in 1979 when these actions allegedly took place, Roy Moore’s behavior is called pedophilia and has been illegal in this country since 1973 (yeah, I’m a little shocked that the laws were only established that recently as well). It is considered child abuse and is illegal under federal law and in every state in the Union, including Alabama.
I also think it’s safe to say that most people in the country would think a 32 year old man putting the moves on a 14 year old girl would be creepy. Gross. Disgusting, even. I would not want to spend time with a 32 year old guy who liked to go out and hit on 8th graders. I don’t think you would either.
But that’s what we’re talking about and Jim Ziegler is not bothered by this at all. Why?
Because of Jesus, of course.
Free speech is a great power and with great power comes great responsibility. Mr. Ziegler has overstepped the boundaries, here. He is using what my late, conservative Republican father would have called “questionable moral judgment” in issuing that statement to the press. He’s acting irresponsibly.
Ziegler is endorsing pedophilia. He is endorsing child abuse. Worse yet, he’s using the bible to substantiate his opinion.
Nope, Jim. Nope. I’m sorry. I have to call you on that. I don’t know what you’re thinking here. I can’t tell if your religious zealotry has you so blind to common sense that you are making statements in line with the beliefs of cult leaders like Jim Jones and David Koresh, or if Moore’s election to the senate is so important to you that you’re willing to essentially discard a child’s safety for political gain. Either way I do not know which motivation is more disturbing, more disgusting and more flat out evil. Frankly, at this level, it’s impossible to quantify either one.
I can’t even believe I’m in the position to write this piece. It’s been clear to me, and plenty of other people across the world, that American politics has been void of common sense for quite some time. But in my wildest dreams, it never occurred to me that I would be compelled to write something condemning the defense of sexual molestation (by an elected official no less). We protect our children in this country. No questions asked. It’s an absolute. It’s that simple.
Mr. Ziegler, there is no excuse for defending child assault, alleged or not. If I believed in Hell, I would say there is a special place in that realm for people who act as you do, and it would be somewhere below the sexual predators who do not bother you. In fact, it is people like you that make me wish such a place existed. I will instead have to relish the public humiliation that has been set upon you. I have great sympathy for your family and the scorn, embarrassment, disparagement, and disdain they are about to experience due to your utter ignorance, but I hope you feel every last bit of their pain. I doubt, however you’ll have the common sense to do that.