The Church of Satan has accused Christians of "loving pedophilia" as several pastors continue to back Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore in the wake of sexual assault allegations.
On its official Twitter account, the Church of Satan tweeted: "Christians love pedophilia." It a follow-up tweet, it said, "Child abuse is directly forbidden in The Satanic Bible, which members of the church follow, church reps said. "Christians however have been abusing children for centuries. They own this."
"Many of the people coming to the defense of Moore [will] decry the horrors of moral relativism but then equivocate when one of their own is cruising shopping malls for underage prey," Raul Antony of The Church of Satan told Newsweek. "Many of the comments we see from Christians even take the allegations as a given and excuse his behavior through the teachings of the Bible."
The Church of Satan, established in 1966, claims to teach atheism and follows The Satanic Bible, which prohibits sexual activity with children.
Republicans in Washington have urged Moore to step aside after the Washington Post published a report based on interviews with more than 30 people, saying Moore pursued relationships with teenagers while he was in his 30s. One woman said she was just 14 years old - below the age of consent - when Moore initiated sexual contact with her.
Some pastors have continued to defend Moore, including Dr. David Gonnella, pastor of Magnolia Springs Baptist Church in Theodore, Alabama, who is one of the more than 50 pastors who endorsed Moore's successful Senate primary runoff in September.
"I don't desert my friends just on mere accusations, I require evidence," Gonnella said, explaining he believes the accusations are part of a plot to derail Moore's campaign.
"Well perhaps satanically motivated, but politically carried out," said Gonnella in describing the allegations against Moore. "Why was everyone, all these people silent for so many decades [and] want to all come for[ward] at the same time now?"
However, the vast majority of Christian leaders have spoken out against sexual misconduct.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, condemned those who have used the example of Mary and Joseph in the Bible as a means to defend relationships between adults and teenagers
"My blood pressure has been elevated in recent days with people suggesting that even when such horrible things take place that it's the equivalent of Mary and Joseph -- no, it's not," Moore, who is not related to Roy Moore, said during an appearance on Anderson Cooper 360. "Or, as I heard one person say on television, I believe it was yesterday, that this would be a misdemeanor, so it would be the equivalent of stealing a lawnmower. Stealing a lawnmower? That's the most horrifying, sort of moral relativism that I can imagine, especially when we're living a country where there are so many women and girls who have their lives being crushed by powerful men who are using sexual advances, sexual assault against them."
He added, "We need to have the moral clarity to come out and say, 'Sexual assault is always immoral and always wrong.'"
When responding to someone who is sexually abused, Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, urged the Church to simply say, "I believe you" and show mercy.