Charlene Cannon tried not to be offended, angry even. She was, after all, at church. It was Sunday morning and the retired Birmingham police officer was settled in her pew at the Guiding Light Church in Birmingham’s Irondale neighborhood, eager to embrace God’s calling to love and forgive and hear the Word as preached by Bishop Jim Lowe, Jr.
It was not unusual for politicians, regardless of party, to be sitting amongst the predominantly African-American congregation, particularly of late–during a political season that seems to have encompassed the entirety of 2017.
“Bishop welcomes anybody, and I appreciate that,” Cannon told me later Sunday afternoon. “I’ve never been offended by anyone. But …”
Suddenly, standing at the front of the church, mike in hand, was Roy Moore.
The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate had been introduced by Lowe and offered the opportunity to address the church.
Moore, standing awkwardly next to Lowe, said he couldn’t “talk about politics,” adding, though, that he would “appreciate your support.” He then read a Christmas-themed poem he said he wrote himself.
Cannon says many women in the congregation turned their heads away from Moore.
“I tried not to be offended; I really did,” she said. “But it didn’t work.”
Moore, as we all know, has been accused by nine women of either sexually assaulting or making inappropriate sexual advances to them while they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s and working in the Etowah County district attorney’s office. Moore, who is facing Doug Jones in the December 12 special election, has steadfastly–if not inconsistently–denied all allegations against him.
Yet even before the allegations surfaced last month, Moore was not exactly a friend to African-Americans.
Last December, he told CNN he still didn’t believe President Barack Obama was an American-born citizen. And he famously said U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, should not have been allowed to serve after being elected in 2006 because he chose to be sworn in with his hand on the Koran rather than a Bible.
“Islamic law is not comparable to our law,” he said.
Then just last month, while on the campaign trail, he said a “new right” created in 1965 was the source of our “problems” today. You don’t have to be a learned historian to know the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted that year to prohibit racial discrimination in voting.
Cannon, however, is most incensed at the allegations levied at Moore by the young women, allegations he has not suitably addressed to her satisfaction.
“He has no respect for women,” she said. “And dealing with these young ladies, he hasn’t explained that. If there were just one or two, it’s their word against his. But as many as have come out, my momma used to tell me where there’s smoke there’s fire, and this has been smoldering for a while.
“When you come out and run for public office, sometimes it’ll catch fire.”
Cannon said she “hurried” out of the church after the service ended and spoke to other members who were more than a bit troubled by Moore’s presence.
When she arrived at home, Cannon posted a photo of Moore speaking at the church on Facebook and wrote: “I was enjoying service until….”
The post prompted a flurry of comments, almost all of them negative.
“Until the devil showed up.”
“Keep your young daughters close.”
“What pastor allows an accused sex offender to address their congregation. It’s time to find another church.”
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Roy S. Johnson