Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley said in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day message Monday that he does not consider Americans who do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior to be his brothers and sisters.
"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said shortly after taking the oath of office, according to the Birmingham News. ''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," he continued. "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."
American Atheists President David Silverman told Hotsheet that the comments were "bigoted" and show that Bentley "puts his Bible above the Constitution of the United States."
"There is a difference between being a governor and being a mullah, or being a preacher," he said. "Being the governor of all people means that you are a representative of all people. It certainly does not mean that you abuse your position to push your religion on people who differ from your faith."
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish rights group, also condemned the comments.
"It is shocking that Governor Bentley would suggest that non-Christians are not worthy of the same love and respect he professes to have for the Christian community," ADL Southeast Regional Director Bill Nigut said. "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."
Nigut added: "Governor Bentley's remarks suggest that he is determined to use his new position to proselytize 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."
Asked about Bentley's comments, his communications director, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, told the Birmingham News, "He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike."
While Bentley, a deacon at a Baptist church, drew a distinction between Christians and non-Christians in his comments, he also said he was "color blind" and would represent all the people in his state.
Bentley's comments may not be much of a problem for the new governor. During the Alabama GOP gubernatorial primary, candidate Bradley Byrne was attacked for allegedly suggesting that evolution, as opposed to creationism, "best explains the origin of life."
His response was to deem the ad awash in "despicable lies" and insist, "As a Christian and as a public servant, I have never wavered in my belief that this world and everything in it is a masterpiece created by the hands of God." He went on to tout his efforts to ensure creationism be taught in public schools.
Unbelievalble! Really unbelievable. He is the governer of an entire state and he talks like this? Wow! i am SO glad I found out about this.
He is clearly saying if you do not subscribe to his religious views, you are are not worthy to be considered a brother or a sister, in other words, you're on the outside of the right side. This, coming from a governer no less.
This is scary. This kind of thing is what makes me feel hopeless. How do people like this get elected into such high positions of power?
Did he not say things like this until after he got elected? Is that how it happened?
He was like that all the way thru the election. He won by a huge margin. Tell you anything about the voting public here in the great State of Alabama. The outsiders just think it is scary, try living here.
Alabama... Not even once.
Perhaps this guy didn't get the memo, but being Governor means he governs ALL the citizens of his state. No picking and choosing. Nor special treatment for his 'brothers and sisters' His comments were quite inappropriate for someone in his position, and it saddens me that someone like him can get elected.
Genetics? This is Alabama we are talking about.
George Wallace was shot in the stomach... but not before being the butt of a George Carlin joke!