The Republican governor of Alabama is no longer a member of his church, where he was once a deacon, after admitting to inappropriate sexual conversations with a top staffer.
Gov. Robert Bentley and his top advisor, Rebekah Mason, both attended First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa for years. But they have apparently been expelled after the release of an audio recording in which Bentley makes sexually explicit comments to Mason.
“While church discipline is a church family matter, both Governor Robert Bentley and Mrs. Rebekah Mason are no longer members of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa,” Senior Pastor Gil McKee told the Christian News Network. "I continue to pray for each of them."
McKee had previously compared Bentley to the Old Testament prophet Joshua. "God has called him to this mission of leadership," McKee said during Bentley's inauguration day in 2011, according to The Gadsden Times.
Last week, Bentley admitted to making the sexual remarks to Mason -- but denied there was a "physical" affair with the mother of three.
"I would now like to apologize to the people of Alabama. I ask them to forgive me. I've been told about the possibility of tapes for two years," he said at a news conference.
First Baptist Church members said they were disappointed to hear of Bentley's conduct. The governor had also served as a Sunday School teacher at the church.
"We're just all sad and disappointed for the family," church member Ann Engelhart told local news outlet WVTM13.
"We've been through the major pain and great disappointment, great disappointment," another member, Diana Davis, added. "But you know, that's life and we forgive people and we love people."
Bentley has sullied his reputation, according to political experts.
"It pretty much decimates the reputation that he was elected on, as the doctor that could cure Alabama's ill's, financial and moral," Bill Stewart, the former chairman of the department of political science at the University of Alabama, told the Associated Press.
"Overall, it is bound to diminish his ability to be persuasive given that he is a lame duck governor to start with, and then when you add this scandal to it, it's hard to believe that he would be taken seriously," added Natalie Davis, a political scientist at Birmingham-Southern College.
The governor frequently cited his Christian faith in public statements
Bentley chastised the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 for legalizing same-sex marriage, arguing that it conflicted with God's definition of marriage.
“I have always believed in the Biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. That definition has been deeply rooted in our society for thousands of years," he said in a statement.
After a tornado tore through an Alabama city last year, Bentley said he believed God was watching over the community.
"You see all the damage and all the houses where people survived and you have to believe that God was looking after them," Bentley remarked.
The Alabama governor also made sure residents could get "God Bless America" license plates without having to pay an additional fee.
"At a time when our country is facing so many unprecedented issues, these tags are a reminder of the blessings God has bestowed on our state and nation," Bentley said.
He also appointed a Christian homeschooling advocate to the state’s Board of Education.