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Judge Roy Moore, the evangelical fired from the bench for bringing God into court, was hitting a crescendo at a rally in Alabama when one of the faithful burst into rapture.

“Make Christianity Great Again,” bellowed one of the Republicans congregated at Oak Hollow farm in Fairhope to see Mr Moore before Tuesday’s Alabama senate election.

“We’ve got to go back to restoring the morality of this country,” cried Mr Moore, a firebrand who has sent shivers down the spine of the Republican establishment in Washington. “They don’t want me up there . . . they would rather have a Democrat.”

Mr Moore has put the fear of God into Congressional Republicans — and not just over the controversy he sparked by bringing a rock inscribed with the Ten Commandments into his court. If the Vietnam veteran beats Doug Jones, a Democrat, Republicans will have a colleague who is accused of preying on teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

For his fans in Fairhope, the claims are fake news from a media in cahoots with Mitch McConnell, the establishment Republican Senate majority leader. Their gospel instead came from Steve Bannon, the former aide to Donald Trump, who introduced Mr Moore by saying “this whole thing was a set-up, this whole thing was weaponised”.

Speaking near a group of protesters — who some Moore fans said were paid by the financier George Soros — Marlene and Richard Hines fully agreed with Mr Bannon. They questioned why the allegations unearthed by The Washington Post did not emerge over the previous four decades during the many races Mr Moore has run.

“If I found out it was true, I’d be protesting too. I raised three daughters. Anybody that did something like that to my daughters, they wouldn’t be able to stand in front of a microphone,” said Mr Hines. “But I gotta give the guy the benefit of the doubt, because I believe in the fact that you are innocent until you are proven guilty.”

Polls show Mr Moore with a small lead over Mr Jones, a prosecutor best known for convicting Ku Klux Klan members for a 1963 bombing that killed four black girls. But the tight margin underscores the controversial nature of Mr Moore, who is trying to prevent Mr Jones, who has raised much more money than his rival, from becoming the first Democrat from Alabama to win a Senate race since 1992.

One Alabama official said the views of rural evangelicals were often not well reflected in polls, suggesting Mr Moore has better odds. He trailed his two GOP rivals when he ran for Alabama chief justice in 2012, but ended up winning easily. His win over Luther Strange in the GOP senate primary was also bigger than polls had suggested.

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The official added that people in Alabama enjoy thumbing their noses at authority, in keeping with the motto of “we dare defend our rights” written in Latin (Audemus jura nostra defendere) on Alabama’s coat of arms. “If people could elect a stick of dynamite they would. Roy Moore is a human form of dynamite.”

Mr Moore has cast his lot with Mr Trump, who saw one of his best results in Alabama, in a race that will help gauge the president’s support one year since his election. “We’re going to see if the people of Alabama will support the president and support his agenda . . . by electing somebody who is not part of the establishment,” he said.

Mr Trump was slow to endorse Mr Moore. But he came around, even after his daughter Ivanka said there was a “special place in hell for people who prey on children” — a statement Mr Jones has used in his campaign. While Mr Trump will not campaign for Mr Moore in Alabama to avoid more criticism, he will hold a rally on Friday in Pensacola, a Florida city that is an easy drive from Mobile, Alabama.

When Mr Moore spoke in Fairhope, the former kick-boxer who spent a year in the Australian outback did not repeat the stunt he pulled during his last rally in the town when he brandished a revolver to burnish his pro-gun credentials. But he thrilled his voters by stressing his intention to return God to Washington if he beats Mr Jones.

Janet Oglesby, an Alabama Republican official who once marched in Montgomery to support Mr Moore over the Ten Commandments, said the controversy was not about the monument, but the religious freedoms that conservatives say are being eroded as courts make America more progressive on social issues such as same-sex marriage.

“It was like the little pinhole in the dyke,” said Ms Oglesby. “It will be a change if he wins, because he is going to bring God back.”

Marlene Hines echoed the view of many Moore supporters in Alabama when she said that people in the state strongly endorse Judeo-Christian values which, her husband chimed in, were “under attack”. When Mr Moore rides his horse to the voting station on Tuesday, he will be more than ready to bring that religious fight to Washington.

“What hurts most is I’ve been called foolish for believing in God,” he said. “They’re afraid that I’m gonna take Alabama values to Washington. And I wanna tell you — I can’t wait.”

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi

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