By Blair Scott
Governor Bentley did not waste any time creating controversy in the state of Alabama. The new governor stated during a speech at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church, “Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”
Bentley later said he did not intend to insult non-Christians with his comments. Bentley’s Communications Director had to back pedal his comments a bit and said, “He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike.” I hope Bentley’s Communications Director advised him of that.
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Bentley may not have intended to insult non-Christians in Alabama, but he did. And Bentley’s view that only Christians are his “brothers and sisters” relegates non-Christians in Alabama to a second class citizen state in his mind. How can we trust Bentley now when he has to choose between two competing bids for a state contract and one is owned by a Christian and the other a Hindu, Wiccan, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist?
The irony of Bentley saying this where Martin Luther King, Jr. used to preach, where MLK spearheaded the quest for Civil Rights, does not escape me. If Bentley does not view all citizens of Alabama as equal, and elevates Christians higher than non-Christians, then he has failed Mr. King’s test and ideals. Civil rights are not just about race. Civil rights encompass race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, etc.
Bentley said he wasn’t trying to insult anybody. That is not good enough for me. I want to know that he will actually treat all of Alabama’s citizens equally and that he is truly sorry for making non-Christians in Alabama feel like second class citizens.
Mr. Bentley, I would ask you to re-read your inauguration speech where you said, “I am the governor of all Alabama: Democrat, Republican and Independent. Young and old, black and white, rich and poor.” You also said, “I have said all along, now I work for you, the citizens of Alabama.” You mentioned several times that you were a “servant of the people.”
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Well, Mr. Bentley, I am one of those people you serve, and if you view me as a second-class citizen because I am not your “brother in Christ,” then you do not serve me. Reaffirm your oath and your vision and reassure every Alabamian, regardless of religion, that we are all equal and you will uphold your oath to the Alabama Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom and has one of the best Establishment Clause statements of any state constitution (Article I, Section 3).
I will not hold my breath waiting for your apology or your assurances.