So I begin these ruminations with a most necessary qualifier, necessary at least in these troubled days of ours. To defend due process is not to defend the dirty deeds that must be prosecuted or rejected under a system of due process. A civilized society, in order to institutionalize a bias against lynchings—against a populace taking what they might call “direct action” based upon what “everybody knows—must insist upon due process.
That said, here is the qualification yet again. I indent it so that certain people can find it more easily. If Roy Moore is guilty of what his accusers say, then he deserves everything he is going to get, good and hard. With a career and reputation in shambles, he would have no complaint against the Almighty over what transpired. As the bluesman Paul Butterfield once put it, trenchantly enough, “Ain’t no one to blame but myself.”
But if he is not guilty of the charges, then the Washington Post and the suborned women who accused him are the guilty ones. Not only are they guilty of false accusation, but they are guilty of something every bit as bad as what they accused Moore of doing. “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you” (Deut. 19:18–19).
We have an accusation of a disqualifying sexual crime; if guilty, Moore ought not to be a senator. We have the counteraccusation that WaPo was offering money to women if they were willing to accuse Moore. This too is disqualifying; people who do this should be run out of the business of journalism. But notice that I am withholding judgment in both cases. I do not know if Moore molested a girl decades ago, and I do not know if the WaPo paid women to lie about Moore. Let’s investigate and examine the evidence. But that means getting all the evidence, both ways, out on the table. After that is the time for decision. Until then, let’s not play “ready, fire, aim!”
So a defense of due process is not a defense of the guilty, considered as such. It is a defense of us all. It is a defense of civilization against anarchy.
The biblical view of justice requires the presumption of innocence, due process, the right to cross-examination, and more. Now David French tries to argue against this, and is quite right that there are certain venues where a certain kind of due process does not and cannot apply. But this should make us more careful, not less. Why?
The requirements of our justice system are requirements that are derived from the general biblical approach to justice. They apply in a particular way to courts, but because they are matters of justice, they also apply everywhere else. For example, the requirement of two or three witnesses to condemn is tantamount to the presumption of innocence. This is required in a court system (Deut. 17:6; 19:15), but naturally—since we are talking about justice—it also applies to disputes within a church (2 Cor. 13:1). If school teachers are wise, it would apply to disputes that boiled in from the playground, and if parents are wise, it would apply to arguments between their teenagers.
The principles of justice apply anywhere it would be possible to act in an unjust fashion. French is quite right that with regard to the courts, it only applies to such things that courts have jurisdiction over. But this does not mean that justice is a matter of indifference so long as prosecution is out of the question. If the adage that you get more of what you subsidize is true—and it is true—then do we really want to encourage scurrilous accusations at the moment of maximum vulnerability? If you think that Moore is a skunk because of these charges and the Clarence Thomas is a statesman because he survived charges of a similar nature, then the day might come when you think Moore is a statesman too.
If you are a resident of Alabama, you shouldn’t change your vote based on these accusations. If you were already against him, stay that way. If you were already in his corner, stay that way. If you were in the process of making up your mind, then his behavior in the course of this controversy is fair game. Public statements are also fair game, of course. But don’t change anything on the basis of a late hit.
I will put it this way. If you change your vote because of unsubstantiated allegations, you are actually voting for political campaigns to get increasingly dirty. You are voting for more of what apparently works. You are voting for our October surprises to get exponentially more lurid. Why? Because it changed your behavior last time. What did you think would happen?
A few other things should be noted.
Someone asked somewhere online why I am taking this line with Roy Moore, and didn’t with Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey. And the answer is simple. If Moore had said it was a long time ago, and he couldn’t remember because there were lots of girls, and then checked himself into some rehab, then I would have treated him the way I did Weinstein. And if Moore had said that he was done with his double life and that it was time to come out as “a gay man,” then the same. But he is denying everything stone cold. This is a he said/she said, and that could not be said about the Hollywood scandal.
The Scriptures treat false accusation as a big deal, which means the possibility of false accusation is also a big deal. One of the Ten Commandments is aimed at it. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex. 20:16). Notice that this is perjury in service of accusation. This is false witness against someone. This is a lying heart using the court system as a weapon. There is not a huge difference in principle between that and using the WaPo as a weapon.
Important notice, also indented, as above. By saying this, I am not defending either sins or crimes, committed by anybody, whether right, left, or in the middle. I am defending American liberties. We are up against an astonishing ignorance, like the juror in the Menendez trial who asked, “What is a senator?” “What is the presumption of innocence anyway? What is due process?”
Apart from Christ, slanderous accusation is the natural language that men speak. “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good” (2 Tim. 3:3). And this is not a temptation limited to men. Women are told specifically to guard themselves against it. Older women are to set a good example for the younger women in this area. “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3).
“Thou shalt not follow the [click traffic] to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment” (Ex. 23:2).
“The insolent smear me with [memes], but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law” (Ps. 119:69–70, ESV).