Atheists Not Welcome in Alabama Governor’s Family

***Update***: Bentley, under a lot of pressure, has apologized for his comments:

“It was never my intension to disenfranchise anyone”, Bentley said. “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 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.

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.”

Bentley knew damn well he was speaking to a Christian crowd using his title as governor. He has no excuse for what he did, but in the last line in that excerpt, we already know he’s a liar. Obviously, he doesn’t actually believe any Muslim or Jew or atheist is his brother. He said so just the other day.

Not bad for a first act. I wonder how he’ll try to top it…

In his first act as Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley made it a point to tell Christians he considered them family. Nice to see him showing love for the Jews, Muslims, and atheists in his state…

Bentley then said that only those who are Christians and “saved” like he is are his brothers and sisters.

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said. ”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.”

Bentley stopped just short of calling for non-Christians to accept Jesus Christ.

”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he said. “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.”

No thank you. Jokes about Alabama citizens having the “same daddy” aside, I have no desire to be a part of a family like that.

What’s even worse is that the beginning of Bentley’s speech was all about inclusion:

“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.”

But after the shout-out to Christians, it’s clear which group he favors.

To paraphrase George Orwell: All people are equal; some are just more equal than others.

Blair Scott, former Alabama State Director of American Atheists, writes:

Bentley may not have intended to insult non-Christians in Alabama, but he did. And Bentley’s view that only Christians are his “brothers and sisters” relegates non-Christians in Alabama to a second class citizen state in his mind. How can we trust Bentley now when he has to choose between two competing bids for a state contract and one is owned by a Christian and the other a Hindu, Wiccan, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist?

Bentley said he wasn’t trying to insult anybody. That is not good enough for me. I want to know that he will actually treat all of Alabama’s citizens equally and that he is truly sorry for making non-Christians in Alabama feel like second class citizens.

I expect Bentley’s sort of exclusionary preaching in a church, but as a governor, you leave your preaching hat at the door. Who advised him, in his first act, to alienate every non-Christians in his state?

And besides just speaking in Christianese, what does that statement even mean? Why would anyone want to be in a “family” with James Dobson, Pat Robertson, or Jerry Falwell? If you asked me to pick families I’d like to be a part of, their names would not be on the top of my list…

Have fun with this guy, Alabama. Remember that you’re not part of his family when he comes asking you for money.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Michael

    Is this time for the gratuitous incest joke?
    Let’s extrapolate this:
    *We have the same father (God)
    *We’re all God’s children
    *God impregnated Mary (his daughter)

    Yep, sounds right for Alabama.
    Glad to see that we’re keeping it in the family.

    Ps: A family with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell would be a family with one too many creepy uncles.

  • Adam

    Not to insult freethinking and correct-minded Alabama citizens, but the region, and that state especially, have a huge history of government-sponsored intolerance and ignorance. Alabama is in the heart of the so-called “Bible belt” and to expect anything different is unrealistically optimistic. Cynical as it may sound, I would expect any sort of Establishment Clause law suit would be laughed out of local and district courts.

    But to the freethinkers in Alabama, good luck. If there’s any place that needs a good dose of reason it’s the Deep South.

  • http://yamipirogoeth.blogspot.com/ Sakura

    “But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have” …wait a sec…I thought xians like this said they ARE god’s kids…that’s no confusing at all.

    Anyways, I agree with you Hemant, I wouldn’t want to be part of the same family as those nutjobs…its bad enough we share the same DNA.

  • Siamang

    Wow, a Republican politician in Alabama said that?

    I’m shocked and surprised.

    No, wait.

    The opposite.

    This guy will be a new hero to the right. I foresee a long political career for him, a multi-book deal and a regular hosting career on Fox after that.

    The radical right takes care of its own. Well, hey look, they already made him Governor.

  • Bob

    In Bentley’s words, I hear the same kind of evangelical nuttiness as the folks who tell me I’m not a ‘real’ Christian.

    It’s all about exclusion and finding excuses for not having to respect the someone with different ideas. If you don’t believe in Creation, you’re goin’ to hell.

    (Bentley attested to his belief in Creation and that it should be taught in schools during a gubernatorial debate.)

  • Richard Wade

    Who advised him, in his first act, to alienate every non-Christians in his state?

    Uh…God?

  • inmyhead

    Wow, reading that makes me so not happy to live in Alabama. Sigh. I am not from here, I am from ohio. It is a whole different world down here. Billboards on the highway the say things like ” Go to church or the devil will getcha” and religious posters in the pubic schools. If you don’t like foot ball and don’t go to church you are EVIL! ;D

  • Pam Ellis

    Comments are open on his Facebook page:
    http://www.facebook.com/RobertBentley2010

  • Bob

    Incidentally, while I’m somewhere on the road between ‘Catholic’ and ‘non-theist,’ I’d sooner share a dinner table with the folks here.

    (However, I haven’t a clue how to handle Hemant’s vegetarianism.)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I think he was trying to make an inclusive statement about race from a Christian perspective that people are brothers and sisters (no matter what your skin color) as long as they have accepted Jesus as their savior.

    Obviously in Alabama you can get elected without the non-Christian vote so he feels he can simply write-off and marginalize non-Christians.

    He is not aware of (or sensitive to) the concept of the tyranny of the majority.

    It will be interesting to see if he indeed does become a new darling of the political right.

    I wonder what the new US house majority leader thinks of him? Would Cantor (who is Jewish) back him if he ever ran for President?

  • Siamang

    I think this guy will wind up being a right wing hero, like the guy who shouted “you lie!” during Obama’s State of the Union. He got his hand slapped for doing it, then he had to say a few mea culpas for being a naughty boy… but in the long run it was a brilliant career move.

    This too. This guy is “in trouble” (if you can call it that) for saying what most people like him believe… it’s just impolitic to say.

    The main feature of religion, or indeed any voluntary social grouping, is to determine who’s in and who’s out. Be it a country club, a political party, a fraternal lodge, whatever.

    All this guy was doing was saying that the folks who are in are in, the folks who are out are out, but are welcome to come in (provide they join his religion).

    I think the main reason it’s impolite to say so is that as a society we try to ignore the implications of the very religions people believe in.

    For political politeness, we all like to pretend that religions don’t divide humanity. He brought up the truth, and we all look at him like he farted in church.

    His religion SAYS WE’RE GOING TO HELL! Other people’s religions say he’s going to hell!

    To get along, we all pretend it’s not true. But it is.

    How utterly rude he is in pointing at the stink that we are all so politely trying to ignore. He just said what he believes, and a lot of people believe it.

  • Claudia

    @inmyhead my sympathy for your plight, and that of all reasonable Alabamans. Perhaps you should think of yourself as on assignement in a foreign hostile land. Hopefully there are at least a few others around you in the same situation you can huddle with, and you can communicate via the web with the civilized world.

    As for the governor, I don’t mind that he doesn’t consider me a sister. The last thing I want is a stupid religious bigot buffoon for a brother.

  • Jim T

    Roll Tide…

  • Thegoodman

    There are 4.447 million people in Alabama. 16% of them are not Christians. There are 711k people in Alabama he apparently does not like or refuses to represent.

    He won his last election by 115k votes. Will the free people of Alabama please step up to the plate to make sure this dbag doesn’t get a 2nd term.

  • http://www.let-me-be-frank.blogspot.com smellincoffee

    Speaking as someone who lives in Alabama and most definitely did not vote for Bentley (who seemed to think his first name was “Doctor” during the campaign), I don’t think is as big an issue as people are making it.

    It was completely inappropriate of him to bring in his religion into a public forum. As a result of this ill-thought choice, he made an ass of himself stumbling over the realities of Christian dogma. Politicians make gaffes and stick their feet in their mouths all the time: I don’t think anyone will remember this episode a year from now aside from those with a vested interest in keeping government safe from religion.

  • Deanna

    I think it’s a good sign of the times that this story is getting some major noise. I have news.google.com as my home page, and this story is one of the ones featured right now.

    http://news.google.com/

    There are already 245 news articles about the Alabama governor and his speech.

    And, he made The View this morning!

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/alabama-gov-robert-bentley-criticized-christian-message/story?id=12648307

    The top news headlines read:

    New Alabama Gov. Criticized for Christian-Only Message, ABC News

    Robert Bentley makes disheartening statement in his inaugural speech, CollegeNews

    5 Facts About the Ultra-Christian Alabama Governor, AOL News

    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Sparks Controversy With Christian
    Comment, Terra.Com

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    Siamang’s nailed it. This guy isn’t in trouble for believing those things, he’s in trouble for saying them in public. “Shh…the theist-ays are in the oom-ray.” What astounds me is that people continue to believe things that they (or at least a subset of them) are embarrased to hear spoken in mixed company.

  • Cheryl

    I had a good laugh when it came out earlier in the week. The in-breeding in that family is the worst in the state.

    Not to defend him but he was pandering to the black population, which is very religious. I know of several who will say they are xtian but have never set foot in a church. Being black in the south means being xtian. It’s a matter of tradition more that conviction, and has a strong hold on the community.

    Also, the three largest cities (Mobile, Montgomery, and Birmingham) have blacks in high political positions. Birmingham is almost 80% black with Mobile and Montgomery evenly split. Bentley has to pander to that demographic in order to get into and hold office. Every white politician in this area knows that.

    Politics around here are very race centric and, by default, very religion centric.

    As fucked up as Alabama is with all the religious nutters, it does give you a lot of opportunities to point and laugh. You just have to be careful that one of them doesn’t point back at you with a shotgun. I know of some who will.

  • Pat

    I think it is about time for non-family members to move out of the house (state).

  • elricthemad

    Not much i can do from outside of Alabama except become an Auburn and LSU fan.

  • http://thoughtsofsweetchuck.blogspot.com SweetChuck

    “If a guy is a good neighbor, if he puts in a day, if every once in a while he laughs, if every once in a while he thinks about somebody else and above all else if he can find his way to compassion and tolerance then he’s my brother…” The West Wing

    Bartlet for America…

  • Jason in Birmingham

    Okay guys, might want take it easy with the Bama bashing. After all, a lot of states (some in the frozen north) put morons in power. We have a growing number of Atheist organizations and the future looks encouraging. Remember the billboard which spoke the truth of religion and scams? You can find that board in Huntsville (say it with me) Alabama. The reaction from a huge chunk of Alabama to our new governor’s idiocy is encouraging, and we don’t need over-reaching condemnation of all residents. And please don’t disparage college football, it’s the only religion I have.

  • Claudia

    He has now apologized. It’s a bit half-assed, but about as good as we could expect. I don’t believe for a minute he’s sincere, but at least he felt the need to apologize.

    “If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way,” Bentley said Wednesday.

  • http://alabamatheist.blogspot.com/ Tim D.

    Just another wonderful day in Alabama.

    >:(

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    So he apologized to everyone but non-religious people.

  • sliperslap

    ugh…as a resident of Alabama, I am disgusted. I heard about this comment earlier today, and actually overheard someone trying to defend it. I thought, what the hell, I’ll read what was said and not jump to conclusions. As my eyes rolled over the ridiculous words before me, I had to quell the urge to vomit. I don’t have words for the rage that is building inside of me. Disgusting. This isn’t something where you can say, “Oh, he just misspoke” or “Oh, it’s just taken out of context” or “Oh, thats no big deal.” WTF Alabama? Sure, I know my circle of friends is more intelligent than the rest of the state, but who knew it was smarter than the rest of the state, combined! How such a nut job can be elected to a leadership role, not just of some podunk-ass bumpkin town, but of the entire state, I do not understand. Where are all the intelligent people? I don’t know. I knew this guy was a douchey conservative Christian when he was elected, but that’s par for the course in Alabama. But at least they are usually intelligent enough to keep that covered up and not make BLATANTLY discriminatory remarks. And “creation” in schools? BLEEEGHHH. I couldn’t hold it any longer. That solidifies it, as soon as I’m done with school I’m moving to Colorado. Peace out bitches

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    If we Atheists ever manage to get another of our own elected to the position of governor of one of the 50 states, I’m positive that our person would NEVER make such divisive blanket statements about religious people. At least not in the first week of the job!

    We know better that the position of governor is not a church position, and that the governor has a duty to represent ALL citizens of that state. The god-talk should wait until after hours, or at least until after the microphones are turned off.

    If he wants a big audience for his religious views, I’m sure there are plenty of churches that will welcome him at their microphone…on Sundays.

  • JB Tait

    At least he didn’t say:
    “It makes you and I . . . . “

  • Robert W.

    He maybe the Governor but he is a Christian and he was expressing Christian beliefs in a Christian Church. So he can’t express his Christian beliefs once he is elected? Even as an elected official he has freedom of religion. After he made these comments he had an alter call inviting people to the alter to accept Christ.

    So you read into this speech made in a church that he won’t govern equally? If he expresses these same sentiments in his legislative agenda then you would have a beef, but until then it smacks of paranoia.

    From my perspective I wish he wouldn’t have apologized. He was correctly stating Christian doctrine.

  • http://www.CoreyMondello.com Corey Mondello

    Only the elimination of all conservative Christians will allow all Americans to be free and the world to no longer have to live in fear of the U.S.A.’s imperialist, terrorist holy war. The conservative ideology has never helped mankind in any way, it has not only never helped mankind in anyway, it has oppressed, murdered, raped and killed all those in it’s way to gain power. History shows us this. Fact shows us this. James Madison, the “Father of the U.S. Constitution”, along with many founders of this country, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliations, knew keeping politics and religion separate not only preserves each, but helps them flourish: “The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church and the State.”

  • DA

    I’m kind of sick of all the redneck and incest jokes that pop up on atheist blogs when shit like this happens. A lot of family and friends of mine are what you might call ‘rednecks’ (hell, I could qualify pretty easily)and my dad’s family is Southern. When well-off urban and suburban people regularly mock people they perceive that way, it’s very definitely a class thing. I wouldn’t mind it so much but it’s lazy and too common. Anyway, in my experience, ‘necks aren’t the inbred ones. Traditionally aristocracy is the most inbred group their is, and in the US we see it far more in these centuries-old WASP enclaves and ethnic neighborhoods in the Northeast. Honestly the group with the biggest problem with inbreeding, hands down, is Muslims; people regularly marry their cousins and it’s not even considered odd to most people. But of course, well mannered liberals who would never dream of offending Muslims are all too happy to pick on working class and poor white people. Sorry if it seems like I’m getting my PC knickers in a twist; it’s not the joke itself, per se, it’s the easy recourse to the joke by people who want an easy and safe target. I hate the deep south’s culture of idiocy and would never want to live there, but then again I’d never want to live in L.A. or Boston either.

  • DA

    “Only the elimination of all conservative Christians will allow all Americans to be free ”

    Wow, THAT doesn’t sound totalitarian at all

  • anniesez

    Bentley has insulted more than non-Christians. He has insulted moderate and progressive Christians who do not embrace a born-again premise. Only fundies (like his Southern Baptists) get born again; mainstream denominations like Lutheran, Episcopal, etc. do not. And even among fundies, not all have become born again. I think it was to these people that this idiot was blathering to.

  • http://mythreedollars.blogspot.com Michael

    What I’m not hearing much about is his “color-blind” statement. This is hardly a display of inclusivity. It is as inappropriate as his exclusion of all non-Evangelicals. When a white person says that s/he is “color blind” (and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone other than a white person say it) it means that they don’t want to consider that there are non-white people and that racism is a prevailing and oppressive force in our society. It is a literal “white washing” of race and difference. Not acknowleding and accepting my fellow human’s different race or ethnicity and all the differing perspectives that comes with different races and ethnicity, is not commendable or a desirable trait in any person, much less an elected official.

  • Drew M.

    DA:

    I agree. I loathe how acceptable it is to bash rural folks and the working class. It’s ignorant and every bit as bad as the theists who call us immoral.

  • DA

    Michael, a good point. One of the biggest revelations of my life was when I let myself know that I’m NOT socially colorblind, and most likely few if any other people were either. Personal experience and culture affect our lives in a myriad of ways that can’t be ignored, and racial tension and self-segregation are a fact of life. I’m in an interracial marriage, most of my colleagues are non-white, I hang out in some very racially disparate circles, and I spent 4 years as a Muslim…And none of this changes that I have racial prejudices and lazy thought patterns. The “color blind” line is bullshit, but it’s bullshit that voters and the party enforcers are going to demand. Liberal and conservative politicians alike live in dread of honest conversations about race and ethnicity.

  • DA

    Oh and Drew, thanks, it’s good to see I’m not alone here.

  • Claudia

    He maybe the Governor but he is a Christian and he was expressing Christian beliefs in a Christian Church.

    He was invited to speak at a traditionally black church on the occasion of MLK day. Are you really saying that he wasn’t invited in the capacity of governor? So this historically black church just happened to invite this older white guy to speak at their church on MLK day who just happened to be governor? Riiight.

    He was speaking in his capacity as a governor, who theoretically is supposed to represent all Alabamans, not just the Christian ones.

    Robert, if an atheist governor was invited to speak at a Secular Student Alliance group and said something like “Religion is a delusion and only skeptics practice true rationalism. I would like non-rational Americans to join us.” can you honestly say you would find that appropriate? I can honestly say I sure as hell wouldn’t.

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    My question to you is why would you find that inappropriate? Is it because he would be lumping in all skeptics and atheists into one basket? Or because you would think that in the way he would govern it would exclude all who don’t think like he does?

    From my view, regardless of the fact that he is a governor he has free speech and can say what he wants. It maybe political suicide in some respects but that is his choice.

    What I am concerned about is the attempt to silence him and force him into an apology for expressing his religious convictions. He was not saying this is how he would govern nor is he saying he wouldn’t be the governor for all. What he did express was Christian doctrine that as Christians we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • Claudia

    My question to you is why would you find that inappropriate? Is it because he would be lumping in all skeptics and atheists into one basket? Or because you would think that in the way he would govern it would exclude all who don’t think like he does?

    I would find it inappropriate because he or she would be giving a statement specifically citing theists as a lesser out-group while in the capacity of a public official. I’ve now answered the question, so you answer mine; in my hypothetical situation, do you think the statement “Religion is a delusion and only skeptics practice true rationalism. I would like non-rational Americans to join us.” to be appropriate? Not do you think it would be politically convenient. Do you think it would be an appropriate statement for a public official?

    What he did express was Christian doctrine that as Christians we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

    That is a misrepresentation of what he said. He not only said that Christians were his brothers and sisters, he actively stated that the rest of us aren’t his brothers and sisters (and he didn’t say in Christ), and the only way we could be his brother or sister is if we converted to his religion.

    ”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he said. “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.”

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    I do think it would be appropriate for a public official to make the comment you stated. The mere fact that he is a public official doesn’t make it inappropriate. Now if he took active steps to legislate in an exclusive manner then that would be a problem.

    I think the entire statement is consistent with what I said. Taken as a whole the context is that unless we are saved, we are not brothers and sisters in Christ. And he said he wants to to be your brother so he invited people in a church to accept Christ.

  • Claudia

    @Robert, I guess we just have different views on what is appropriate for a public official. I’m glad to see you apply the standard consistently though.

    Mind you I don’t think he should be barred from saying these things. Being a public official should not mean you are denied constitutional rights. He has a right to say whatever he wants to say, and I have a right to call him a dick for saying certain things. I don’t think a governor should be legally barred from spewing racist vitriol either, but I think it’s appropriate that he or she be roundly condemned for it and suffer political consequences as well.

    On what I think we can agree is that it’s probably better to know the true views of these people before, not after, they are elected. An inevitable consequence of the condemnation of certain speech is that people often hide their true views, not change them, so that it’s harder to recognize those who will actually discriminate because they watch their words very carefully. I don’t really see a solution to this, because it’s a natural consequence of everyone else using their free speech to tell someone that their ideas are offensive.

  • ianam

    “From my view, regardless of the fact that he is a governor he has free speech and can say what he wants.”

    It’s unintelligent to equate that with “appropriate”.

  • anti_supernaturalist

    Faith, the trusting suspension of disbelief, has always been theater of the absurd.

    the anti_supernaturalist

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    On what I think we can agree is that it’s probably better to know the true views of these people before, not after, they are elected. An inevitable consequence of the condemnation of certain speech is that people often hide their true views, not change them, so that it’s harder to recognize those who will actually discriminate because they watch their words very carefully.

    You are right. We do agree on this. I would much rather politicians say what they mean vs. what they think we want to hear so we can make an informed choice of their values.

  • Deepak Shetty

    What he did express was Christian doctrine that as Christians we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Except when the sister becomes your wife?

  • http://www.live.com Lindh

    The Governor did not nor does he have any intention of issuing an apology. “If I offended…”. The problem is that religious crackpots such as the Governor are simply not civilized, or to put it another way, not quite house-broken. They simply cannot abide the facilities afforded them through rational behavior, and thus are prone to take a crap on the floor now and then. Naturally, the smell lingers, so he kicks a little “if I offended” on it. But, the smell is sweet to the saved.

    And there are so many of them. Consider ex-governor Johanns of Nebraska who established a “Jogging for Jesus” Day in that State. Or the State school board of Kansas who passed a law shielding their children from whatever knowledge might violate their superstitions.

    In the end, there is little difference between the Taliban and Christian Fundies. Both are hung up on ancient Middle-East goat ropers, and, given the opportunity, both would take us to the Stone Age.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Oh, the irony! Can you imagine a less appropriate occasion for such a bigoted and exclusionary statement than a MLK celebration? Martin Luther King, who spoke so eloquently and passionately on the subject of brotherhood?

    Robert Bentley:

    ”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he said. “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.”

    Martin Luther King:

    It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.

    When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

  • Jimmy

    The venemous responses in most of the 48 comments preceding mine demonstrate the difference Christ and sinful man. The Governor makes a caring, loving appeal that I would like you to know my Savior and be my brother and the world responds with hate, ridicule of Christ and jokes about God and incest. Please see the irony of your comments, the contrast between your heart and God’s, and your need for the Savior the Governor speaks of (the Governor, you, and I — all in need, all potential brothers and sisters).