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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. Richard Wolford, Phd

    This is not an apology, he's just saying he's sorry if you took offense, but he's not acknowledging that he did anything wrong. Government is secular, get that through your heads. If you want to talk to invisible sky fairies on your own time, fine, but keep it out of government.

    January 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  2. Philip

    "If there is a catastrophe"? How many catastrophe's do you need before you "take note" of them?

    January 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I was talking about world wide catastrophe. I was referencing this whole "end of the world" thingy that some religious people keep predicting. you know 2012ish type stuff, Noah, etc.

      Since it has been predicted by somebody for almost every day or month in every calendar year, someone will randomly get it right if it ever happens ( asteroid maybe?) . Of course then they will be dead, so who cares.

      January 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  3. its kinda funny

    Wow..
    I kinda just thought of something.
    Bare with me here: If an average citizen got up on stage and told people that if they weren't Christians, they weren't 'brothers or sisters,' he/she would be... probably beaten up and who knows what else. But, since this man is a politician, he gets invited to a dinner. Bentley isn't sorry for what he said. He's sorry for the poor ratings that little slip-up got him, but I'd put money on it that he meant exactly what he said.

    January 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  4. MarkinFL

    Wow, an on topic post!

    The only way his comments could be seen to disenfranchise anyone is if it included an intention for his administration to treat non-Christians differently. He was speaking about his personal religious ideology, which one does not give up upon entering public service.
    He DOES have the responsibility to govern equally, but he does not have to believe all of his con st ituents are going to heaven.
    We have many religious government officials and he didn't say anything nearly as strong as I've heard from others. This is just a tempest in a teapot.

    January 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      This post was supposed to be in response to the one above, but I again got caught by the filter and reposted without using the reply button. They really need to get a better filter system. I've now tried to use four words that have been snagged because they include a certain slang term for a female body part found above the navel. This is ridiculous!

      January 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      MarkinFl,

      The context is the return of the Son of Man (Jesus) and yte end times. The flood is being used as an example of the suddeness! Nobody took Noah seriously until it started to rain. From Matthew 24:

      37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be .
      38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking , marrying and giving in marriage , until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
      39 And knew not until the flood came , and took them all away ; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be .

      January 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Yeah, I get that. It just seemed you were using that quote in the context of men marrying men, which of course it has nothing to do with.

      BTW, The end is, and ALWAYS has been, near according to someone.
      Just think, eventually if there is a catastrophe some random set of believers will finally be right!

      January 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      sorry for not being clear! You ar ecorrect, the reference is speking of life going on, not addressing men marrying men! As far as the end is concerned: from Matthew 24

      Matthew 24:36 KJV
      But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

      Folks have been guessing and guessing wrong! No one but God alone knows!

      January 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  5. bxgrrl

    The terminology that I used I believe seemed to disenfranchise other religions and it certainly was not meant to do that," so what was it meant to do? Was he just telling the people in that church what he thought they wanted to hear? I'm waiting for the next apology.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  6. Philip

    Even after it became apparent that Jesus was God's son, most still viewed him as crazy. If even 50 yrs. ago some man told you that men would be marrying in the near future, you would have dismissed him as crazy. Imagine how people reacted to Jesus' end-time prophecy of "Men marrying and women being given in marriage" the day he first spoke of it. The thought of one man marrying another was laughable. Who's the joke on now?

    January 20, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Wasn't Jesus talking about the time up until Noah? And he was referring to how people were going about business as usual. He wasn't talking about men marrying men!
      I hope people read this stuff for themselves and do not take quotes from blogs.

      January 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      I don't consider that a joke. Do you? God's condemnation is absolutely NO JOKE!

      "If even 50 yrs. ago some man told you that men would be marrying in the near future, you would have dismissed him as crazy". Perhaps not, as evil in the last days has been prophesied. It is not a joke!

      January 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Dan

      Phillip, you couldn't be further from the fact. God (whom Jesus is 1/3 of the trinity) hates men with men in a relationship (whether married or not).
      I encourage you to re-read Genesis chapters 17 – 19. There is no laughing in this passage.

      January 21, 2011 at 7:21 am |
  7. Philip

    @Steve...odd. I don't recall any of the bible's records mentioning Jesus' followers joining the Roman army or the Jewish rebellion. Jesus taught that those who live by the sword, shall perish by the sword and "my kingdom is no part of this world, otherwise my attendants would have faught." False Christians shun Jesus' example, choosing tojoin in on this worlds carnage instead. A stark example of disobeidience to the very one they claim to follow.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Phillip

      Read the following from Acts chapter 10:
      1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
      2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
      3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
      4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said , What is it , Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
      5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

      Phillip, A centurion was a military leader in charge of 100 men. We get the word century meaning 100 from it!

      I can provide a few more examples if need be!

      January 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Another example from Matthew 8:

      5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
      6 And saying , Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented .
      7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
      8 The centurion answered and said , Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed .
      9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go , and he goeth ; and to another, Come , and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
      10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled , and said to them that followed , Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

      Don't think that man became a follower once his servant was healed? I am a retired vet myself! I am NOT a false Christian!

      January 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      "A centurion was a military leader in charge of 100 men. We get the word century meaning 100 from it!"

      Well actually they just share the same root ( cent )

      January 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Thanks MarkinFl, That is what I meant!

      January 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  8. Garry

    Apologized my butt! He got caught and he STILL believes EXACTLY what he said....good lord...

    January 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      The apology was NOT for what he believes but was instead for perceived offences!

      January 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  9. Nonimus

    MarkinFL,
    see the post at the top of this article's comments: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/20/banned-in-britain-pastor-terry-jones/

    January 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Thanks, I had forgotten about the dumb "sub-fragment" thing. Here goes – – Cons sti tu tion.

      January 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  10. Philip

    Imagine if this governor copied Jesus calling Jewish religious leaders "offspring of vipers" and then taking a whip to them. You who claim to follow Jesus would be appalled. You shame Jesus when you mix him in with the very ones he himself exposed.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  11. MarkinFL

    Moderator,
    Could you please tell me what is causing my posts to be filtered?

    January 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  12. HeavenSent

    Now they beat the Governor down for knowing the following scriptures to be true ...

    1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

    2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

    3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

    4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

    5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

    2 Timothy 3:1-5

    January 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      When exactly were these things, human weaknesses, not true?
      So every day since the beginning of human kind has been a "last day", how's that work?

      January 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

      And Jesus said, repeatedly, that the Kingdom of God would come down upon the Earth in the lifetimes of some of his listeners. Aside from the obvious fact that Jesus was wrong, repeatedly, I find it funny how these "end of the world" prophesies have to keep pushing back their arrival dates.

      January 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      Mark 3:20-21: "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

      Got that? Jesus' family thought he had gone insane and went to take him away. I guess that for all those 30 or so years before, Jesus had kept his Son of God thing in the closet, so well that his family thought he was just another guy.

      So, were the people who knew him best wrong, or has the last 2000 years of religious war, oppression, division, torture and narrow-mindedness been the result of people following the mythologized story a madman? The actual behavior of Christians throughout history strongly supports the latter.

      January 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  13. MarkinFL

    pluralism

    January 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  14. MarkinFL

    test

    January 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  15. Samantha

    knew this would happen when he was elected governor. I did not vote for him. I'm an Alabamian and I have continually been embarassed by our governors. Seems like they get their support from south Alabama. I hope that people from other parts of the country do realize that there are some good people down here who did not vote for him and who are diverse in their religious beliefs and not only accept but embrace our friends from the Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious traditions. Sounds like he is telling the people in his church that his statement was meant for their ears only while telling the media that he is sorry. OMG...how can we get rid of him now before he does any further harm. We in Alabama hate it that we are perceived as backward idiots for electing someone like him...as I said I did not vote for him. Looks like here we go again....George Wallace must be having a good laugh at the irony.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • cat

      And what exactly is wrong with South Alabama? Is it our French/Creole/Spanish/African/British/etc. history that makes us more diverse than the northern part of the state? The fact that the 2 coastal counties account for most of the tax revenue in AL? What?...) Your comment was about as divisive and misguided as Robert Bentley's!

      January 20, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  16. Philip

    Christians are commanded to have intense love for one another, not join some military force and slaughter each other. Christians are also commanded to "love your neighbor", NOT tolerate or condone false religious practices or immoral acts being carried out by their neighbors. You can love someone without loving what they do. This is the love Jesus has for us, and should be emulated. Jesus didn't remain quiet, he spoke out and his followers are commanded to do the same, even if it's not politically correct.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Which illustrates perfectly why our government is set up to avoid religious influence since Christianity and most other religions are ant ithetical to the whole concept of plur alism.

      January 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  17. Lulu

    Par for the course in Alabama & much of the South. If you are not someone's particular brand of "Christian", they condemn you. All that "love thy neighbor" stuff is left inside the church doors so they can do what they want to their 'neighbors' the rest of the week.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  18. cat

    To the idiot who asked, "there are Jews in Alabama?" Of course. There's actually a fairly large population in Dothan, AL, if I'm not mistaken. And guess what? There are Muslims, Hindus, even atheists!

    Anyhow, I am a democrat who did not vote for Dr. Bentley. I do think, however, that he did not MEAN to offend with his remarks. Regardless of his intent, he did offend non-Christians and probably some Christians, too. He was speaking in a church to members who share similar beliefs, but he has to realize that he is governor of ALL the people of Alabama now (as he, himself, has said). He has to watch his words. Nobody is denying him the right to his beliefs, but I agree his remarks were very divisive. Time will tell if he will be a good governor for AL, but I do think he has the state's best interests at heart. Thank you for apologizing; it was the right thing to do, and I hope you meant it. Keep this slip-up in mind as you try to recruit business to AL; we have much foreign investment in our state, and I guarantee many of those CEOs and company presidents have different religious beliefs than you.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  19. JameJame

    This is exactly what's wrong with so many christians today. being a christian is supposed to mean acceptance and love for all god's creations, right? but christians now, put themselves on a peddlestool and totally disregard anyone who thinks differently than them. this is not about freedom of speech or any of that, it's about as a governor, you should at least 'act' respectful of all creeds of life, not just one. now as a 'christian' you shoukd BE respectful and loving to all.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  20. JO

    This should be a fun four years with a so called christian govern who lied his **s off to apologize to a nation after sticking both his feet in his political mouth. Don't judge all Alabamians by this fool.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:44 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.