CFI Releases Statement on Alabama Gov. Bentley Controversy

January 19, 2011

Shortly after being sworn in as Alabama’s newest governor, Republican Robert Bentley insulted many of his constituents by telling a church crowd that those who have not accepted Jesus as their savior are not his brothers and sisters.

In his address on Monday, Bentley spoke to a large crowd at Dexter Avenue Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, where the late civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once was pastor. In his speech he went out of his way to insult Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and nonbelievers by saying that he doesn’t consider anyone who isn’t a Christian to have a personal relationship to him.

Bentley said, in part:   “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.”

  CFI finds Bentley’s remarks troubling; they raise concerns about whether he can effectively and fairly govern the state of Alabama. His language makes him an advocate for Christianity and puts him in violation of the First Amendment, which requires the separation of Church and State.

Reacting to the media fallout from his speech, Bentley, a former Baptist deacon, said he did not mean to insult anyone. Some have defended him by saying that he was only expressing a desire to be a “brother” to everyone—but, of course, in the context of his speech, this meant he hoped that they would convert to Christianity.

“Bentley’s remarks vividly illustrate the dangers of mixing government and religion,” observes Ronald A. Lindsay, president & CEO of CFI. “Bentley mistakenly believes he can use his office as a pulpit to preach Christianity. However, he was not elected to be anyone’s sibling in Christ, but to be the governor of a secular state, respecting the beliefs of all citizens.”