God, sure wish I hadn’t said that

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church during the annual observance of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday on Monday, Jan. 17, 2011, in downtown Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Lloyd Gallman)

Two days after being sworn in as Alabama governor, Robert Bentley apologized Wednesday for proclaiming to a Baptist church audience that only Christians were his brothers and sisters and vowed to work for people of all faiths and colors.

His comments Monday shocked and offended some believers of other faiths, but the backlash didn’t seem to be a serious political wound for the retired dermatologist and Southern Baptist deacon.

In a conservative state with some of the highest levels of church attendance in the country, some Christian leaders defended the remarks and the Republican will likely get a fair chance to pursue his agenda in the coming legislative session.

“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,” he told reporters Wednesday after meeting with leaders of other faiths in his new office.

After he took the oath of office at the Alabama Capitol on Monday, Bentley headed across the street to a service honoring Martin Luther King Jr. at King’s first church, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

During his speech, he remarked: “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.”

The former director of the Center For The Study Of The Law And The Church at Samford University, Chris Doss, said he believes Bentley stumbled briefly, partly because he is a Baptist deacon, speaking in a Baptist church.

“He was talking to his own flock,” Doss said. But he added Bentley will need to be careful that he doesn’t repeat that mistake.

Bentley apologized for his remarks, but not for being a Christian.

“I will never deny being a born-again Christian. I do have core beliefs and I will die with those core beliefs,” Bentley said. “But I do not want to be harmful to others. And I will die if I have to to defend someone else’s right to worship as they choose.”

The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery, the Rev. Jay Wolf, said he thought Bentley’s remark was misunderstood by the news media.

“He was trying to relay something that is fundamental to our faith, that people who believe in Jesus are related,” Wolf said. “He didn’t mean that he’s not part of the brotherhood of humanity.”

Wolf said the 67-year-old Bentley has spent his career as a physician helping people.

“To say now that he’s being exclusionist, that’s absurd,” Wolf said.

The president of the national Interfaith Alliance, the Rev. Welton Gaddy, said Bentley “went too far.”

“I thought that with his statement he created two classes of citizens in Alabama, those that were his brothers and sisters in Christ and everyone else. As an elected official, he has the responsibility to serve all the people and treat all the people equally,” Gaddy said.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that fights discrimination, said it sounded like Bentley was using the office of governor to advocate for Christian conversion.

“If he does so, he is dancing dangerously close to a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government from promoting the establishment of any religion,” said ADL regional director Bill Nigut.

Retired University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart said the remarks were a mistake.

“I don’t think the governor needs to get into things like who is going to be in the kingdom and who isn’t going to be in the kingdom,” Stewart said.

But he believes Bentley will be able to rebound.

“There’s going to be goofs by anybody,” Stewart said. “Once he gets into his policies and the substance of his administration, I think he can turn it around.”

Candy Gunther Brown, an associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, said Bentley was making a “theological statement” to a church crowd. She called Bentley’s statements a “classic altar call” from an evangelical.

“He’s saying I want to be your brother. That’s an invitation. But basically the way it’s heard is as an exclusionary statement,” said Brown, who studies evangelical Christian literature.

“My guess is that expressions of shock and concern by critics are even perhaps disingenuous, because this can scarcely be the first time they’ve heard a similar statement. If they’re in Alabama, they’ve heard this before, they’ve heard it many times before and maybe even by political leaders.”

One of the Jewish leaders who met with Bentley Wednesday, Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, called the new governor’s remarks “a difficult misstep” at the beginning of his administration. But he said he was pleased with the governor’s apology and said “I hope and pray we can come together in the next four years.”

Another rabbi, Elliot L. Stevens of Temple Beth Or in Montgomery, called the meeting with Bentley a positive step.

“We are all gathered here at the table in the first days of his administration and we are talking about inter-religious dialogue,” Stevens said.

___

Associated Press Writer Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Assocociated Press

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19 Responses to "God, sure wish I hadn’t said that"

  1. bmclellan  January 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

    How much more proof indeed, do we need, that church and state be separate entities ? God talking to Bush was not enough ?

    Nice dancing ( oops ) around the gaff by the Baptist Deacon there ya’ll

    The classic alter call. Iffin yain’t wid me, get the flock away wid ye.

  2. Mightymo  January 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

    This clown is a perfect example of why I despise religion, the religious, and especially American Christians. This idiot has obviously been around a number of years, he ought to be at least a little smarter that this. Not even in office for three days and this idiot Christian Conservative Republican has already succedded in putting his foot in his mouth and isolating a huge part of his state.
    I agree with bmclellan, there is no place for religion in government, and I’m increasingly concerned specifically about American Christianity in Government.

  3. woody188  January 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Where’s Sandy when you need her? :wink:

  4. Carl Nemo  January 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    “If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. ” …extract from article

    Notice these type of characters say something then ‘regret’ doing so only because of its political impact, but rest assured in his heart of hearts he still believes so. No matter, he’s exposed himself to the world and also his core persona concerning his skewed Christian fanaticism and no doubt general intolerance to many other things too. Alabamans deserve this guy. : |

    I’m sure glad I live in a progressive part of the country; ie., the Pacific Northwest.

    Carl Nemo **==

  5. bogofree  January 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Beat me to it, Woody.

    He certainly backtracked real quick.

    • woody188  January 20, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      LOL, I can’t believe she hasn’t posted. This is right up her alley! :mrgreen:

      • Carl Nemo  January 22, 2011 at 3:13 am

        If I recall Ms. Price is packing up to leave “Sun City” AZ and head back to Southern California so she can be with ‘progressive’ folks such as herself. I’m presuming she’s ‘in transit’. : )

        Carl Nemo **==

  6. b mcclellan  January 20, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Easy boys, respect, is as always, is the order of the day.

  7. griff  January 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I don’t see the big deal. He was talking from the pulpit, not from the governor’s mansion.

    Separation of Church and State doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t be religious and hold political office. It means that one’s religious beliefs shouldn’t influence one’s politics.

    It’s also why we have other representatives at the local, state, and federal level to act as a check on some one that may be inclined to let that happen. It’s called checks and balances.

    Overblown, as usual. Is there any thing we Americans won’t overreact to?

    Not the brightest thing to say, but he also said that he would work for people of all faiths and colors.

    I had a friend growing up whose father was a minister who founded and ran a local rescue mission. He lived a pious middle class life and devoted his life to helping the poor. Bad, bad man!

    Disclaimer: I am not religious in any way, shape, or form.

    • Carl Nemo  January 20, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      “Disclaimer: I am not religious in any way, shape, or form.”…extract fom post

      No, but at least you are honest in your assessent. I’m not religious either, but it chaffs my hide when I hear religious ‘freaks’ speak out concerning the fact that they have an imagined “get into heaven pass” at the expence of their earthly bound brethren. What superstitious bullsh*t and all to the unwashed masses hazard. on this plane..no?

      Carl Nemo **==

      • griff  January 20, 2011 at 10:49 pm

        What gets me is that if there is a “benevolent and forgiving” god, and that god would punish any non-believers with eternal damnation for not “knowing” him, then why the hell would I worship him? I think I’m a little more forgiving than that.

        What about the millions of people that lived on this earth before Jesus? What about African natives or Australian Aboriginees? Are they all doomed to hell for the simple and unavoidable fact that they were never properly introduced?

        I was raised Catholic. That’s where it stopped for me as far as religion went, but I will admit that I’ve been conflicted lately. I don’t know what’s out there, but events in my own life have forced me to think that maybe there is some thing. I don’t know what – an energy force or what have you. I just know that I’ve survived some pretty hairy trials along the way, to include almost dying twice and a whole lot of brushes with death and near tragedies. I guess I feel blessed to have survived this long. I can’t really explain it.

        Is it just Karma? Do we create our own positive energy, our own luck? I think we do, but what ultimately is behind it, if any thing, is a mystery to me. I’m just going to roll with it. Live a good life. Be respectful of others (except for politicians and partisans – ha.), and keep my own energy positive. I don’t care what others do.

        I don’t begrudge any one their beliefs, so long as they don’t try to force them on me. If that’s what gets people through life, then that’s their deal. I happen to think that attempting to live by the moral code of Christ’s teachings is admirable, but you don’t have to believe in God to live a moral and decent life.

        I know some pretty nasty people at either end of the spectrum, so believing in God doesn’t automatically give you a free pass. Going to church on Sunday and daydreaming through the entire service doesn’t automatically make you a righteous or good person. The way you live does.

  8. b mcclellan  January 20, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I’ve religion and proud to spout,

    America is what it is all about.

    The atheists always go first.
    Most eager to fight.

    Where is that confounded principle ?

    • b mcclellan  January 21, 2011 at 12:46 am

      Darwin’s ever trapped on highway five.
      Uncle bob egop unraveled before his eyes twice the get go,
      half the furl ? fangotangoLlamraf..

  9. bogofree  January 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Notice the reaction to his actions? Clearly most folks accept the separation of church and state.

  10. b mcclellan  January 21, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Pose might / Friar Tuck ,
    last man with recipe for beer.

    Pop has nothing too say..

  11. Guardhouse Lawyer  January 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Hey, the guy’s a dermatologist. His allegiance to the Constitution is only skin deep.

  12. Carl Nemo  January 22, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Good one GHL. Your humorous creativity was spot-on. : )

    Carl Nemo **==

  13. eve  January 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    It means that one’s religious beliefs shouldn’t influence one’s politics.
    -griff

    I agree with you griff 100%.

    That being said, here is a recent list of representatives and the money they have received for apparently doing that very thing.
    Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs:

    http://www.wrmea.com/html/aipac.htm

  14. eve  January 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Ooooops I said recent: (the first list was almost a decade ago.
    Sorry, please forgive.

    http://www.dailypaul.com/node/136306

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