Roy Moore's scandal is just the tip of American evangelical Christianity's child bride problem

When Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore was accused of sexually molesting children as young as 14, his fellow hardcore evangelicals shrugged at the scandal -- it was "common knowledge" that Moore had a fondness for young teens.

Moore isn't alone in liking very young girls as sexual partners. The grooming of children to marry adult men is a common practice in American evangelical circles, and infamous child-bride advocates are celebrated on the lecture circuit, especially among home schoolers.

These "courting" experts counsel parents to encourage their children to seek marriage with adult men, advocating for marriage in the "middle-teens."

It's a widespread view among the hard right evangelical world, mainstream enough that Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson has publicly advised his fans to marry 15- or 16-year-old girls, because "you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that's going to take place is your pocket." This view was defended by mainstream Republicans, and Robertson has continued to enjoy success in right-wing media, with a new show on CRTV.

Predictably, adult men who are caught having sex with children blame the children for "seducing" them, and in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist sect, these children are forced to repent for having "sinned" by tempting adults to commit statutory rape, making public confessions to their congregations.

As a teenager, I attended a lecture on courtship by a home-school speaker who was popular at the time. He praised the idea of "early courtship" so the girl could be molded into the best possible helpmeet for her future husband. The girl's father was expected to direct her education after the courtship began so she could help her future husband in his work.

In retrospect, I understand what the speaker was really describing: Adult men selecting and grooming girls who were too young to have life experience. Another word for that is "predation."

Much of the sexual abuse that takes place in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, or IFB, churches involves adult men targeting 14- to 16-year-old girls. If caught, the teenage victim may be forced to repent the "sin" of having seduced an adult man. Former IFB megachurch pastor Jack Schaap argued that he should be released from prison after being convicted of molesting a 16-year-old girl, asserting that the "aggressiveness" of his victim "inhibited [his] impulse control." In the wake of the Schaap case, numerous other stories emerged of sexual abuse cover-ups involving teenage girls at IFB churches. In another high-profile case, pregnant 15-year-old Tina Anderson, who was raped by a church deacon twice her age, was forced to confess her "sin" to the congregation.

Roy Moore's alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles [Kathryn Brightbill/LA Times]

(via Naked Capitalism)

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