Alabama Governor Apologizes for Controversial Religious Remarks

January 20, 2011

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – It took more than two days for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to apologize for controversial remarks he made during a Martin Luther King day speech in which he condemned the beliefs of non-Christians.

Bentley, a Republican, told a crowd at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church on Monday that if they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, they are not his brother or his sister.

On Wednesday afternoon, Bentley issued a public apology: “If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.”

Bill Nigut, the Southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, believes Bentley should have been aware of the possible repercussions of his initial statement.

“The governor does not have to be a seasoned politician to understand the impact of remarks like that,” he said. “These are remarks of a man who truly believes what he said, apparently. This seems to be quite clear that Christians are part of an exclusive relationship he has with his brothers and sisters and the rest of us are not.”

Bentley was sworn in shortly before he spoke at the church where the late civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was once a pastor. According to The Birmingham News, during his speech he said it was important for Alabamians to ”love and care for each other.” He also told the crowd he is color blind. But just minutes later, he went on to say if they don’t have the same ‘daddy’ then they are not brothers and sisters.

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said during his speech. ”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.”

“In the city and the state, there are segments of the population who were offended and others said it was good what he said,” said Joey Kennedy, an opinion writer for The Birmingham News who has closely watched the reaction to Bentley’s remarks. “He is not a civilian anymore; he is not a private person anymore. He is the governor of Alabama every day, 24-hours a day.”

Kennedy went on to say that the fact Bentley chose to deliver his remarks in a church doesn’t make it appropriate. “The forum doesn’t matter. Look at the forum, it was a commemoration of Martin Luther King Day to honor the legacy of Dr. King, which was anything but exclusionary,” he said.

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