Moore votes

Judge Roy Moore sports an I VOTED sticker on his shirt after he rode his horse to vote on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the Gallant Fire Hall in the town of Gallant.

He thinks “homosexual conduct” should be illegal.

He says Islam is a “false religion.”

He was a birther, as recently as December.

Now that former Judge Roy Moore holds the Republican nomination for an Alabama seat in the U.S. Senate, past statements by the Alabama jurist and religious-right icon have caught fire in the national news media.

CNN, The Washington Post, and major online outlets such as The Hill and Politico in recent weeks have sifted through years of Moore appearances, producing headlines on statements that shock the conscience of liberals and moderates — headlines that zing across social media faster than cute-kitten videos.

It’s unlikely any of that publicity will move the needle much in Alabama’s polls, political science experts in Alabama say.

“Does anybody hear that and feel surprised?” said George Hawley, who teaches political science at the University of Alabama. “I think most people in Alabama think, ‘That sounds like something Roy Moore would say.'”

Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 special election for the Senate seat once held by Jeff Sessions.

It's a battle between one of Alabama's best-known public figures and a politician who's just now introducing himself to many of the voters.

Moore first came into the public eye in the 1990s, during a court challenge over his decision to post a plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. That catapulted him later to a stint as chief justice of the state Supreme Court, where he placed a two-ton Commandments monument in the high court's headquarters in Montgomery.

A judicial ethics panel removed him from office for refusing an order to remove that monument, but voters again chose him as chief justice in 2010. He was suspended from the bench again last year for defying the U.S. Supreme Court order legalizing same-sex marriage.

It's likely most Alabamians know that story. They may be less familiar with Jones, a Birmingham lawyer who, as a U.S. attorney, prosecuted one of Alabama's most famous cold cases — the 1963 bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. (He's perhaps less known as a court-appointed special master in Anniston residents’ lawsuit against Monsanto for PCB pollution.)

In and out of office, Moore has spent much of the past 20 years in the spotlight, racking up an impressive record of moments in front of the microphone that might be career-enders in a less-red state. But homegrown political science experts say Moore's comments on gay people, Islam and divine retribution aren’t noise, but signal.

"I don't think those kinds of statements will make much difference here," wrote Lori Owens, who teaches political science at Jacksonville State University in an email to The Star. "It probably would in other states but not necessarily here due to the cultural fabric of Alabama."

Owens and others say Moore is so well-known that most have made up their minds on whether they support him or not. Jones, by contrast, will have to watch his steps much more closely — particularly on the issue of abortion, where most voters disagree with the Democratic platform.

Jones may have already made his first misstep on that topic, in an interview on MSNBC earlier this month.

“I want to make sure people understand that once a baby is born, I’m going to be there for that child, that’s where I become a right-to-lifer,” Jones said in the interview.

Jones was likely trying to drive home a common talking point for Alabama Democrats — that Republicans fight tooth and nail for the unborn, but do little to improve quality of life for the living. But conservative blogs seized on the statement, saying it meant Jones was for abortion up to the moment of birth.

“Most of the stuff he’s said so far is non-controversial, but I think that was a foolish way to put it,” said William Stewart, an emeritus political science professor at the University of Alabama.

Asked about the comment, Jones on Friday released a statement that seemed to point again to Moore’s many colorful comments.

“Roy Moore will say anything to distract from his self-serving politics, which are an embarrassment to Alabama,” Jones was quoted as saying in the statement. “I support the current law on a woman’s freedom to choose, which has been in place for decades. This decision is between a woman, her doctor and her Lord.”

Moore has led Jones in the latest polls by six to eight points.

Both Owens and Stewart say Moore faces less danger from his own public statements and more from new revelations about his finances. The Washington Post reported last week that Moore failed to disclose as much as $180,000 in income from the Foundation for Moral Law, the nonprofit he created after he his first removal from the bench.

It's not the first time Moore has had difficulty with reporting income. When he was suspended as chief justice last year, Moore sued to be reinstated, claiming his suspension left him without a way to make a living because judges can't earn money outside the court system. State ethics reports show the judge made $57,500 in speaking fees that year.

Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead blasted the Post as an “attack dog” for Democrats in a statement released in response to the story, but so far the campaign has not countered any claims in the Post story.

Hawley, the Alabama professor, said it’s likely too late for news that will sway most voters either way — though bad news on either side could convince some to simply stay away from the polls.

“If you see any effect, you’ll see it in turnout,” he said.

ROY MOORE UNCENSORED

The former judge has a habit of making statements that generate headlines across the country, without much impact on support from his base at home. Here are a few:

God and violence

"You wonder why we're having shootings and killings here in 2017? Because we've asked for it. We've taken God out of everything. We've taken prayer out of school, we've taken prayer out of council meetings." – Moore in August, to the group Citizen Impact USA

U.S., Soviet Russia and gay rights

In an interview with The Guardian, Moore said Ronald Reagan’s famous line about the Soviet Union as “the focus of evil in the modern world” could now be applied to the U.S. – because of tolerance of homosexuality. Asked if his views on LGBT issues are in line with current Russian president Vladimir Putin, Moore said: “Maybe Putin is right.”

Muslims in office

In 2006, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress, and was sworn in with his hand on the Koran. Moore responded with a World Net Daily opinion piece titled “Muslim Ellison should not sit in Congress.”

“In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on ‘Mein Kampf,” or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the ‘Communist Manifesto,’” Moore wrote.

Sharia law in the U.S.

Moore earlier this year told a reporter that Sharia law, the religious law outlined in the Koran, was in effect for entire cities in the Midwest. He seemed to walk back the claim when asked which cities were affected.

“Well, there's Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana — up there. I don't know,” he told a reporter from Vox.com.

Birtherism

As late as December 2016, Moore said he didn’t believe former President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

“My personal belief is that he wasn’t,” Moore said at a Constitution Party convention last year. “But that’s probably over and done in a few days, unless we get something else to come along.”

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.