Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley was sworn in Monday and wasted no time in offending his constituents.
Speaking to Dexter Street King Memorial Baptist Church, a church once led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Bentley declared himself to be the governor of all Alabamians, but added that non-Christians were not his brothers and sisters.
“I was elected as a Republican candidate,” he said. “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,” Bentley continued. “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,” he added.
Bentley was later asked if he was trying to be insulting to non-Christians.
“We’re not trying to insult anybody,” he replied.
“I don’t think he was trying to disenfranchise me, I just think he needs to be a little more sensitive to the fact that there are many different types of Alabamians,” Sheldon Rosenzweig, a member of the Tuscaloosa Jewish synagogue Temple Emanuel, told Tuscaloosa News. “I have real mixed feelings about it. I just hope this is not going to be done in repetition. Many of the people in Alabama who are not Christian are good people.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Tuesday was shocked by Bentley’s remarks.
“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,” ADL regional director Bill Nigut said.
He expressed concern that the new governor may be using his position to evangelize.
“If he does so, he is dancing dangerously close to a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which forbids government from promoting the establishment of any religion,” Nigut noted.
Bentley was the second Republican governor who found himself in hot water during the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.
After the NAACP complained that Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a tea party favorite, was not attending their events, the governor responded to a reporter by saying: “Tell ’em to kiss my butt.”
“They are a special interest. End of story … and I’m not going to be held hostage by special interests. And if they want, they can look at my family picture. My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they’d like about that,” he said.
This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Jan. 18, 2010.