Pastors across Alabama are increasingly divided over the candidacy of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, as he faces numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with young girls decades ago.
With Moore refusing to bow out of the race and the special election looming next month, ministers in the region have split on the longtime Christian conservative politician.
In one letter, 96 pastors said Moore is unfit for office.
“Under ordinary circumstances, we clergy refrain from speaking directly about political candidates and only speak to issues,” they wrote. “But these are not ordinary circumstances.”
“I signed the letter because I’m concerned,” the Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey, of St. James CME Church, told Fox News. “I wanted to lend my voice. … I cannot, in good conscience, support him because I believe he hurts those who are already hurting by the stances that he’s taken.”
In another letter posted on Facebook by Moore’s wife Kayla, 53 conservative religious leaders blamed liberal media and a handful of establishment politicians for the recent allegations.
“For decades, Roy Moore has been an immovable rock in the culture wars - a bold defender of the ‘little guy,’ a just judge to those who came before his court, a warrior for the unborn child, defender of the sanctity of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty,” they wrote.
Two letters, two very different stances.
The eight-page anti-Moore letter was released Friday by nearly 100 clergymen and women of various denominations in Alabama, attempting to present a unified stance against Moore.
“It is our belief that in light of Roy Moore’s extremist beliefs, his patterns of behavior, and the recent allegations against him, no person of faith can, in good conscience, support him or his religious nationalism,” the letter said. “He has done harm to our government; he has done harm to our Christian witness; and he has done harm to vulnerable people.”
Moore, a Christian conservative, denies the allegations and says he will not quit the race.
As a judge in the state Supreme Court, Moore opposed same-sex marriage and had a granite 10 Commandments plaque installed at the courthouse that was subsequently removed by court order.
Pastor Tom Brown, of the First Baptist Church of Gallant, Ala., is among Christian conservatives still supporting Moore. He says Moore has attended church services for most of his life and is well-liked in the community.
Moore “says it’s untrue, and I believe it’s untrue because I’ve known him for 25 years,” Brown told Fox News.
Fox News reached out to the ministers who signed the letter supporting Moore, and a majority declined to comment. One stressed they were concerned for the safety of their church members after receiving harassing letters and phone calls.
Moore is running for the Senate seat previously held by Jeff Sessions, who earlier this year was appointed U.S. attorney general. Moore is competing in the special election against Democrat Doug Jones. Election Day is Dec. 12.
FOX NEWS POLL: JONES LEADS MOORE
A recent Fox New poll showed 41 percent of Alabama voters think Moore has a strong moral character. Moore had led Jones for weeks, but he now trails Jones by 8 percentage points, according to a Fox News poll released last week.
Still, opposing pastors say Moore’s actions are contrary to the Christian faith.
“He and politicians like him have cynically used Christianity for their own goals,” they wrote in the anti-Moore letter. “Roy Moore does not speak for Christianity.”
Terace Garnier is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her on twitter: @TeraceGarnier