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“Here in the sanctuaries of evangelical Alabama, engaging in sexual contact with a 14 year old is fine, but asking a candidate for the U.S. Senate a question is illegal.”

On a humid November night in Theodore, Alabama, Roy Moore took the pulpit at Magnolia Springs Baptist Church and, somehow, didn’t burst into flames. The predominantly white crowd of Wednesday night worshippers listened raptly as his hateful words filled the sanctuary, frequently vocalizing “Amen!” in agreement. Earlier, this evangelical congregation had clapped and cheered at their pastor’s announcement that sentient garbage can Steve Bannon would be campaigning for Moore in Alabama the following week.

“They went in the back and had their prayer meeting and then they came back out here,” a kindly constable stationed by the front door informed me. Because of course they did.

Maybe it was all the hot air inside the church, maybe it was the blatant hypocrisy of Magnolia Springs Baptist’s brand of Christianity, or maybe it was both, but I got through one sentence of Moore’s speech before I walked out. A friend stayed inside to film. Watching the video back later, I discovered his habit of quoting opponent Doug Jones, whose righteous words formed the lone bright spot in an otherwise dim and disjointed keynote:

“If culture means that you have to put people down, if your culture means that you would discriminate against somebody, that you would not treat anybody in the same way that Christ would do, then I’m not going to protect that. I’m not going to protect discrimination of any sort, in any way, whether it’s race, religion, sex orientation or whatever.”

Right after the recitation of this Jones quote, as yet undetected stunt comedian Tony Barbieri, situated in a front pew and wearing a GIMME MOORE t-shirt, burst into enthusiastic applause. The apparently confused congregants followed his lead and also applauded.

Moore supporters, like this self-styled “Jihadist Re-education Officer,” watch as he speaks from the pulpit of Magonlia Springs Baptist Church. Photo by Marisa Jane Green.

Earlier in Moore’s speech, which, as the pastor had reminded everyone, was a “worship service” and therefore illegal to interrupt, an older man stood up and interrupted: “All the girls are lying?” he asked Moore. “YES!” came the pious crowd’s reply; the criminal in their midst was quickly removed. Here in the sanctuaries of evangelical Alabama, engaging in sexual contact with a 14 year old is fine, but asking a candidate for the U.S. Senate a question is illegal.

Outside the front of the church, a local man named David Connolly stood with his young son in the glare of bright lights from national news crews, reacting to what he had just heard inside from Moore. “It’s embarrassing. To think that every person in Alabama stands for what he’s saying? That’s just downright wrong.”

Meanwhile, behind the Fellowship Hall, a daytime-soap-worthy scene unfolded when Moore dodged the press yet again. As a campaign associate picked up the car he had arrived in, Moore himself exited out the side door and into a waiting pickup truck.

Here’s the moment where CNN’s perpetually unflappable Gary Tuchman informed the assembled press that Moore had allegedly left the building.

“Do you think he’s in the trunk?” asked a reporter as we all watched his sedan drive off.

“Now that would be a story,” Tuchman replied.

He’s not wrong. I’d go one further and say it would be the only Moore story worth writing until Doug Jones beats him back under his Ten Commandments monument on December 12.

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