WASHINGTON ― Alabama Senate GOP candidate Roy Moore said Tuesday that religion shouldn’t be used as a litmus test for public office, contradicting his decade-old statement that Muslims shouldn’t serve in Congress.
“There should be no religious test, no. That’s against the Consitution,” Moore told HuffPost as he entered the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
Moore is the favorite in the special election to replace Jeff Sessions, who was appointed attorney general. The controversial former Alabama Supreme Court justice is meeting with the entire Senate GOP conference at their weekly policy lunch, the latest sign of him consolidating support from the party establishment.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that GOP Senate “candidates traditionally attend a policy lunch after they become the nominee.”
Moore has a history of making anti-Muslim comments. In 2006, he wrote an op-ed on the conservative website World Net Daily that said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who had then just been elected, shouldn’t be allowed take office because of his Muslim faith. He also said Muslims shouldn’t serve in the military.
“Islamic law is simply incompatible with our law,” Moore wrote.
Moore has received the endorsements of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.)
Cornyn said he disagreed with Moore’s comments about Muslims, but he added that it shouldn’t take away from the candidate as a whole, whom he described as a “tireless advocate led by principle rather than politics.”
Other GOP senators criticized Moore over his Muslim comments.
“You can’t have people running for office — and again, I don’t know the particulars of what Moore has said — but as it’s been reported, you can’t have people running for office saying that being a Muslim would be a disqualification for being in Congress,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said last week. “The Constitution’s pretty dang clear about not having religious litmus tests.”
Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who previously rose to the defense of a Muslim opponent of his in Arizona, said outright he will not support or endorse Moore over his statements about Muslims.
“A guy who says that a Muslim member of Congress shouldn’t be able to serve, that’s not right,” Flake told reporters last week.
Shortly before entering the Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday, Moore refused to answer questions from a Washington Post reporter because the paper’s editorial board had endorsed his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.
Moore also took issue with press coverage of his candidacy, insisting he doesn’t “hate people.”