A Note on Roy Moore’s “Jewish Attorney”

AL.com reports:

Roy Moore’s wife reveals their ‘Jewish attorney’ and he’s a Christian

The wife of former U.S. Senate Republican nominee Roy Moore has revealed the identity of the Moores’ “Jewish attorney” she mentioned in a Dec. 11 speech.

…Kayla Moore today explained why she made that reference.

“We read where we were against Jews – even calling us Nazis,” she wrote in an email to AL.com. “We have a Jewish lawyer working for us in our firm – Martin Wishnatsky. Judge hired him while Chief Justice, then I hired him at the Foundation.”

The Jewish status of converts to Christianity is a debated subject, as seen for instance in the legal difficulties faced by Jewish Christians who wish to emigrate to Israel. Wishnatsky describes himself as a Messianic Jew, and he told AL that “that’s the term they use for a Jewish person who has accepted Christ.” However, it seems that Wishnatsky attends a regular evangelical church rather than a Messianic synagogue, where ethnically Jewish believers in Jesus participate in Messianic Judaism. Although Wishnatsky is ethnically Jewish, Kayla Moore’s original reference to a “Jewish attorney” obviously implied a non-Christian association, thus appearing to moderate Roy Moore’s exclusivist Christian nationalism. (1)

Wishnatsky says that although he had a Bar Mitzvah as a boy, he was raised in a non-religious household. According to a 1993 profile in the Washington Post, he first encountered religion while visiting Hawaii in 1977, when a woman “prayed to Jesus to take away my sins”; this led him into Mormonism, which he left due to its “bizarre” nature. In 2003 he published a polemical work through Xulon entitled Mormonism: A Latter Day Deception, which is also available on his website.

Wishnatsky’s website has a particular focus on the subject of “sexual purity”, which was also a theme of his anti-abortion activism. According to the 1993 article:

Wishnatsky, who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible, said that he is engaged not in terrorism but in a holy war against sin. He faulted the “unbridled lust” and pervasive sexual immorality spawned by rock and roll music that originated during a decade he labeled “the fornication fifties.” The tragic consequence of America’s moral decline, he said, is the legalization and widespread popular acceptance of abortion.

At this time, Wishnatsky had come to attention as a member of the Lambs of Christ (sometimes referred to mistakenly as the “Lambs of God”), a militant anti-abortion group active in North Dakota led by Father Norman Weslin, a former Green Beret (profiled by Kathryn Joyce here). The group had a strong Catholic identity, although it doesn’t seem that Wishnatsky was himself a Roman Catholic – the Washington Post quotes him as having denounced those who “would rather kill an infant than bother with contraception”, which seems a bit off-message.

Wishnatsky’s activism resulted in periods of imprisonment and legal restraints – and in 2006 the AP reported that he was using a zoom lens to photograph women entering the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo and the license plates of their cars, which he would then post to the internet.

Wishnatsky has also involved himself in civil legal disputes. In 2003 he approached a legal clinic about filing a lawsuit against the display of the goddess Themis on the Grand Forks County Courthouse, on the grounds that the image caused him “distress”; this was a stunt because the same clinic had supported a lawsuit against a Ten Commandments monument, and when he was declined assistance he filed a case against the clinic. This followed a 1998 attempt to get a restraining order against David W. Huey, the North Dakota Assistant Attorney General, on the grounds that Huey had prevented him from entering an office without knocking by forcibly re-closing the door on him, and that he had experienced “severe physical and emotional effects” from witnessing Huey in a verbal altercation with someone else.

Such was Wishnatsky’s local celebrity that it was considered news when in 2009 he announced that he was intending to enrol at Liberty University at the age of 64, after an experience of “emotional” revival in 2006. Wishnatsky graduated in 2012, and then found work with Moore as a clerk.

I noted some of the other characters who have come to wider attention in recent weeks due to their association with Roy Moore here.

Footnote

(1) On the whole, Messianic Judaism is not accepted as a legitimate branch of Judaism by other Jews, although there are some calls for acceptance. However, Messianic Jews are recognised as co-religionists by Christians. There is also a “Hebrew Roots” movement, in which non-Jewish Christians adopt Jewish practices and cultural forms – sometimes with idiosyncratic results.

The evangelical attitude to Judaism is conflicted: Christian Zionism sees God as continuing to favour Jews as part of a cosmic plan, and Moore is a strong supporter of Israel. But are Jews saved, or is Judaism a “false religion”, which is how Moore regards Islam? The answer is somewhat unclear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *