First up from the God Machine this week is a report out of Alabama, where Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore pushed back against allegations of sexual misconduct with a faith-based appeal that didn't go as planned.
The GOP candidate appeared at a televised press conference on Thursday with several provocative allies from the religious right movement, When reporters asked Moore about the scandal, one of his allies announced that the Republican wouldn't be answering any questions at the event. When those in attendance pressed on, Moore left.
But even more controversial was a letter of support for Moore from pastors, which the campaign promoted this week in the hopes of addressing the scandal. The problem, as AL.com reported, was that some of the pastors listed as Moore supporters don't actually support Moore.
The undated letter is posted to Moore's website under the "news" category. The letter references the Aug. 15 primary and contains the name of more than 50 pastors who urged support for Moore."For decades, Roy Moore has been an immovable rock in the culture wars - a bold defender of the "little guy," a just judge to those who came before his court, a warrior for the unborn child, defender of the sanctity of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty. Judge Moore has stood in the gap for us, taken the brunt of the attack, and has done so with a rare, unconquerable resolve," the letter said.Moore's wife, Kayla, posted the letter to Facebook this week but omitted the first three paragraphs that referenced the date. Since that time, four pastors have come forward to say they were not asked about their support for Moore and asked that their names be removed from the letter.
By all appearances, Moore and his team took a previously released letter and re-packaged it this week in response to the firestorm. The apparent point was to give the impression that these religious leaders were standing with Moore despite the serious allegations, which proved problematic when some of the pastors publicly balked.
Neither the candidate nor his campaign have yet explained the apparent attempt at deception.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The Museum of the Bible opened this week in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall. The project, spearheaded by Hobby Lobby chief Steve Green, has not been without controversy, and it's opened to some unflattering reviews. To celebrate the opening, museum officials hosted a black-tile gala the other day at ... wait for it ... the hotel Donald Trump still owns and profits from.
* Pope Francis has little patience for climate deniers: "Climate change is 'one of the most worrying phenomena our humanity is experiencing,' the pontiff wrote Thursday in a letter sent to world leaders gathered for the United Nations' annual climate change conference. He also warned participants against falling prey to certain 'perverse' attitudes on the issue, including denial, indifference and resignation."
* And right-wing televangelist Jim Bakker told his viewers this week that saying "Merry Christmas" was "outlawed a few years ago." That's, um, wrong.