Roy Moore allegations prompt reflections on fundamentalist culture in which some Christian men date teens

By Julie Zauzmer

When Roy Moore, then 34 years old, asked 17-year-old Debbie Wesson Gibson whether she would date him, Gibson asked her mother what she would think.

According to The Washington Post’s investigation into Moore’s alleged pursuit of teenage girls, which was published Thursday, Gibson’s mother replied, “I’d say you were the luckiest girl in the world.”

That attitude of encouraging teenage girls to date older men, rather than shielding girls from men’s advances, sounded familiar to some people who read the Post story that has shaken Moore’s bid for the U.S. Senate.

“It’s not so uncommon that people would necessarily look at it askance,” said Nicholas Syrett, a University of Kansas professor who recently published a book on child marriage in America. “The South has a much longer history of allowing minors to marry, and obviously there’s some courtship or dating — whatever you want to call it — leading up to that.”

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