Religion in Society

Anger Over Alabama Gov Bentley's "Christian" Comments

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

There is outrage stewing in Alabama and beyond over divisive comments made by the state's new governor, Robert Bentley, who said in a speech that if you're not Christian, then "we're not brothers."

Speaking Monday at a church on the day he was sworn-in, Bentley said the following:

''I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor ... I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind. There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister. 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."

Those words were condemned by several non-Christian groups.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, called the remarks "outrageous."

"He is a governor, not a mullah," Silverman said. "This is a diverse nation with a secular government. If he doesn't like it, he shouldn't be governor."

Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, said he was disturbed by what Bentley said.

"He was saying that for us to be considered equal, we would have to become Christians in his brand of understanding," Taufique said. "I'm hoping that he was just in a Baptist church and he wanted to please his congregation, forgetting his earlier comment to be governor of all Alabamians."

Bill Nigut of the Jewish advocacy group the Anti-Defamation League, said it was "shocking" for Bentley to suggest that non-Christians "aren't worthy of the same love and respect he professes to have for the Christian community."

He added, "His comments are not only offensive, but also raise serious questions as to whether non-Christians can expect to receive equal treatment during his tenure as governor."

However, Gil McKee, senior pastor of Tuscaloosa's First Baptist Church, said Bentley was just quoting the Bible.

"He was coming strictly from the fact that Scripture talks about how those that know Jesus Christ as their savior are adopted into the family of God, and as we are adopted into God's family, we are adopted into the family of Christ," McKee said.

Bentley has not made any further comment, but his chief spokeswoman, Rebekah Mason, issued a statement:

"Gov. Bentley clearly explained in his inaugural address his belief that he is the governor of all of Alabama. The governor clearly stated that he will be the governor of all Alabamians- Democrat, Republican and independent, young, old, black and white, rich and poor. As stated in his address, Gov. Bentley believes his job is to make everyone's lives better."