January 19th, 2011
06:47 PM ET

Alabama's new governor apologizes for Christian comments, rabbi accepts

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

What a difference a couple days can make.

On Tuesday, Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama, fired off a letter to his state’s new governor. He, like many others, was still reeling from comments Gov. Robert Bentley made Monday.

The Bentley remarks that sparked controversy were delivered to a Montgomery Baptist church audience. In them, the just-sworn-in governor suggested that anyone who doesn’t share his Christian beliefs cannot be counted as a “brother or sister.”

So Miller responded, saying he felt "a duty to my conscience and my role as the rabbi of the largest synagogue in Alabama."

The rabbi wrote of feeling “disenfranchised” by Bentley’s words and reminded the new governor that Alabama’s Jews are “faithful people” who also happen to pay taxes, vote, send their kids to the state’s schools, follow the laws and “work, each of us in our own way, for the betterment of all.”

“Our great nation, by law and tradition, provides us with religious freedom. And even though we do not believe exactly alike,” Miller wrote, “we ought to see each other with brotherly affection, and as equals in conscience and human worth.”

Reached Wednesday afternoon on his cell phone, Miller said his concern had dissipated. He was in his car, traveling back from Montgomery, where he’d just met with Bentley.

“He’s looking to fix the thing,” Miller said after the 75-minute meeting, which included about half a dozen concerned community leaders, including those of other faiths. “He was apologetic. He’s clearly looking to reconcile himself. He said today, ‘All of us have put out words we wish we could take back.’”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Bentley apologized for his remarks.

"The terminology that I used I believe seemed to disenfranchise other religions and it certainly was not meant to do that," he said. "And what I would like to do is apologize. Anyone who heard those words and felt disenfranchised I want to say that I’m sorry. If you’re not a person who can say that you’re sorry than you’re not a very good leader."

WBRC: Bentley meets with religious leaders over controversial remarks

Miller made sure Wednesday to invite the governor to come on up to Birmingham and join his synagogue for services, a Shabbat dinner, maybe even address the Temple Emanu-El crowd.

“All my concerns from this incident are put to rest, but, of course, as a minority religion we always have our antennae up,” Miller said. “We certainly expect from his words and deeds today that he will not be a governor who will divide us over religious issues.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Judaism • Politics

soundoff (577 Responses)
  1. doaa



    January 10, 2014 at 2:03 am |
  2. memieseChed

    It was very nice and very surprising.

    July 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  3. lunderloola

    Very nice article.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  4. Eucerina


    The "unsaved" you refer to are most often UNBELIEVERS. There is nothing offensive to us in an imaginary deity until an elected official, should he believe his obligation to his god is first priority, runs for PUBLIC office which requires him to serve all citizens, protect their civil rights – if his imaginary deity is his focus HE SHOULD NOT HAVE RUN. Don't backpedal or be a hypocrite. I don't give a rat's ass what his dogma says, his dogma is not in control of the nation or the state. As an atheist, I will never be his sister, and if I lived in Alabama, I would demand fair justice and be alert to his clouded judgment in terms of social policy. He needs to grapple with this and be a man and get out – go pray, judge, and hate to his shrivelled little heart's desire.

    Now people you listen to her, cause she KAN think like she spells!

    February 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  5. katenok@hotmail.com

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    February 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  6. Dixie Anne

    I'm from Alabama and I'm proud of my Governor. He has the courage to say what he believes; that takes guts these days. He didn't have to apologize, He did cause its the good manners his mamma taught him. The manners y'all seem to have forgotten. I sorry if he offended you, but we have freedom of religion and of speech. I'm actually sorry he apologized. If y'all come down here y'all will find most of us feel that way.

    February 5, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  7. TheSouthIsBackwards!

    This just goes to show the South is messed up!

    January 25, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Willow

      And you don't have problems?

      February 5, 2011 at 12:45 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.