Gov. Bentley apologizes for 'Christian Brother' comments

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email
Reporter: Max Reiss - email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Before a crowd of reporters and Jewish leaders Wednesday, Governor Robert Bentley apologized for comments that many considered offensive towards non-Christians.

On the day he took office Bentley told a group at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in downtown Montgomery that anyone who wasn't a Christian wasn't his brother or sister.

"It was never my intention to disenfranchise anyone", said Bentley, who is a Southern Baptist deacon. "If I did make anyone of any faith feel disenfranchised, let me say I am sorry.

"I did not mean to offend anyone with my comments there," Bentley said to a group of religious leaders and reporters in his State Capitol office.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation organized the meeting, which had been planned for later, but was moved forward in light of the governor's comments on inauguration day.

Those in attendance included: Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Birmingham, Reverend Steve Jones of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Hope Melman of Birmingham, Joyce Spielberger,-Associate Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, Lenora Pate -BJF Board Member, and Rabbi Elliot Stevens of Montgomery.

"I do not think the governor meant anything negative," Rabbi Stevens said.

The governor said when he made the comments to the church audience he assumed he was speaking as a private citizen and not as the Governor of Alabama.

Bentley reiterated a pledge he made during his inaugural address that he would govern fairly.

"As I have said before, I am the Governor of all of Alabama, regardless of race, socio-economic status or religion. I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Alabama, and that includes protecting our right to worship as we please. I will always defend our freedom of religion."

When asked at a press conference following the meeting, if he considered those attending to be his brothers and sisters, Bentley responded "Yes, yes I do."

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