JACKSON, Ala. (AP) — Taking the pulpit at a Baptist revival at a south Alabama church, Republican Roy Moore quoted lengthy Bible passages and made only passing reference to the allegations against him of sexual misconduct with teenagers.
The former judge found a brief refuge from the political firestorm and the calls from national Republicans in elected office for him to drop out of the Alabama Senate race. Speaking in between hymns and sermons urging people to accept Jesus, the embattled Senate candidate dismissed the allegations as an effort to derail his rise to the Senate and end his political career that included an effort to halt same-sex marriage in the state and install a granite Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the state appellate courthouse.
"After 40-something years of fighting this battle, I'm now facing allegations. And that's all the press want to talk about," Moore said. "But I want to talk about the issues. I want to talk about where this country's going and if we don't get back to God, we're not going anywhere."
Two women have accused Moore of sexually molesting them in the 1970s when one was 14 and the other 16 and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. Three others have said he pursued romantic relationships with them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18.
"I thought that he was going to rape me," Beverly Young Nelson said in a news conference Monday as she accused Moore of assaulting her when she was a 16-year-old waitress after he offered to drive her home.
Moore has denied the accusations of sexual misconduct, but in his limited media interviews did not wholly rule out dating teenagers as a man in his 30s. He has largely avoided reporters in his recent campaign stops.
Inside the recreation hall of the 200-member Walker Springs Road Baptist Church, Moore, who built his political brand on the intertwining of God and government, found a friendly crowd.
Don Day, 83, said he refuses to believe the allegations against Moore. "He is nothing but a Godly man trying to make this country come to its senses because of liberals and the other side of the fence trying to protect their evil ways," Day said.
"It is very terrible, but it would be bad for him to be innocent and them go after him," said Shontelle Wright, a 48-year-old mother of three, said of the allegations.
Long a divisive figure in his home state, Moore was twice elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and twice removed from those duties because of stands against gay marriage and for the display of the Ten Commandments in a public building.
Moore's religious-themed stands won him a loyal following among evangelical voters that helped propel him to victory over Sen. Luther Strange, who was backed both by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Moore is trying to maintain that support in the Dec. 12 election against Democrat Doug Jones.
Mike Allison, the pastor of Madison Baptist Church, in his introduction praised Moore as someone "against the murder of the unborn by abortion" and against the "redefinition of marriage."
"He is a fighter," Allison said.