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. fritz

    the man is humiliated and angry and desparately trying not to show it. He was called out by a rabbi for his religious bigotry and he knows it. His apology is insincere and just an attempt to recover politically. I chuckle at the thought of him squirming in his gov chair over the matter.

    January 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Al-Tawba sura 09:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    O ye who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for friends if they take pleasure in disbelief rather than faith. Whoso of you taketh them for friends, such are wrong-doers. (23) Say: If your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your tribe, and the wealth ye have acquired, and merchandise for which ye fear that there will be no sale, and dwellings ye desire are dearer to you than Allah and His messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah bringeth His command to pass. Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. (24)

    January 23, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  3. inkorrekt

    Shalom!Shalom!Shalom! Shalom!! to the Rabbi and also to the governor.His original remarks were never meant to offend anyone. He made a statement from his heart as a true follower of Christ. Jesus calls all of us to love our neighbors as well as our enemies as ourselves. I believe this Governor is a true follower of christ and so, he loves everyone exactly the same way whether a person is a christian or not. This man offered apologies. That means this man is humble. This shows that he is a great leader. He will be the best Governor for Alabama.

    If you read the history of the USA, there was atime when anyone running for public office had to acknowledge Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. We prospered then when we exalted our God. We do not demand this anymore. If we did this today, we will be much better country and of course Mr.Obama will not be the president as he does not know who his God is.

    January 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Jakob

      I agree wholeheartedly!

      February 5, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  4. Muneef

    More about Jesus PBUH;


    January 22, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  5. Muneef

    More about the Messenger of God Moses PBUH;


    January 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  6. Muneef

    More about Prophet Abraham SAW;


    January 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  7. Muneef

    Read about the stories of the Prophets and Messengers of God as told in the Holy Quran at this valuable address;

    January 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Muneef

      Who is Allah ?


      January 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Muneef

      Who is Muhammed Rasoul Allah PBUH?


      January 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Joe

      Muneef, enough of the nonsense. The Koran was written by a single author WELL AFTER Christ's crucifixion, death and ressurection. There was NO prophecy from "Allah". He picked and chose from the jews, christians, etc, and made this supposed book called the Koran.
      As a CHRISTian, I serve a RISEN savior, who is ALIVE at God's right hand.
      John 14:6 – Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the light. NO ONE comes to the father but by me".
      Phillipians 2: 10-11: "One day, EVERY knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord".
      Yesterday in Church, we had a guest speaker that was an international student at one of our local universities. He was from Indonesia. He brought 2 fellow International students with him, one from India and the other from West Africa.
      ALL 3 of them were at one time Muslim, but they said since have learned the truth, Jesus Christ is the ONLY way. They are all 3 CHRISTians now.
      Why do you hear more conversions from Muslim to Christianity than Christianity to Muslim? Because, Jesus Christ is the truth.
      God Bless.

      January 24, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  8. Muneef

    One Nation, One God Religion but mankind has divided it to many and each claims to be the righteous among all. Seems they will be more and more divided to no end until the day Kindom of God is established on Earth....
    Divided in to many faiths,the divided in to branches of each faith,then divided as sub branches for each branches of a major faith...

    January 21, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Muneef

      An example of one major faith and how it is divided among it's followers... And could be only one or more of those sub branches are making all the trouble in the world towards which seems all Muslims have to suffer...?!


      January 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Muneef

      Only few has discussed it openly

      Baroness Warsi: "Anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry is quite openly discussed"

      January 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  9. Muneef

    Think New Governor mistake was to name Christianity in particular where his true words should have been as to all those have faiths in God and do good deeds, if he had done it this way he would he held any discrimination with people of faiths but still he would have been questioned by the non believers Atheists.
    As understand that all faiths believe in God or Super Power other from the Abrahmic there are even pagans worship the force which is nothing but the Force of God Allah...

    January 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  10. WVlady63

    WHY is this rabbi offended? He doesn'st even believe that Christ even existed!!!! Its okay for this rabbi to lambast the Governor but its not okay for the Governor to exercise his "'FREEDOM OF SPEECH??????" So the rabbi is offended, GET OVER YOURSELF!!! You can dehumanize and denegrate The Good Lord if you are an atheist but Christians can't proclaim how they feel about Him and their religion???? Typical....... You can threaten people, be in this country illegally, be a burden on society and be a criminal, but you CAN'T mention your religion or The Savior in anything anwhere! NO WONDER OUR COUNTRY IS IN SUCH SHAMBLES!!! THERE IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY, CHARACTER OR INTEGRITY IN THIS COUNTRY BECAUSE PEOPLE WANT TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT TO DO WHETHER OR NOT ITS LEGAL AND IF YOU OPPOSE WHAT THEY ARE DOING, YOU ARE THE CULPRIT!!! If this rabbi doesn't like what he is hearing, someone should tell him to go back to his own country!!!!

    January 21, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Squiggy

      The governor, an elected official with a duty to represent all his consti tuents equally, revealed a strong bias against anyone who does not practice the brand of Christianity he does. It has nothing to do with freedom of speesh and everything to do with an official representative revealing a bias.

      I have never heard an atheist elected official denigrate your choice of gods. Care to provide an example?

      I see you are a big believer in the Christian "I'm a victim" schtick, and you love your all caps button. Typical.

      Why do you think America is a mess? Our standard of living is higher than at any other time in history. We are very prosperous; even in this recession, most people live better than their equivalents did in the Twenties. Advanced medicine allows more people to live better and longer – a lot of us would be dead had we had our illnesses or injuries a hundred years ago. Crime has been decreasing for decades. Civil liberties have expanded. Certainly there are problems, but modern America is hardly the shambles you scream about.

      January 21, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Dan

      Squiggy, for your sake it is a good thing you/we are living longer. It gives you more time to accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. You can deny it all you want, say nasty things about God, BUT, once you depart this earth (and we all will), you will NEVER get that second chance to change your mind.
      I pray you will commit to Jesus Christ.

      January 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Squiggy

      Thanks for the condescention and weird words, Dan. They really don't entice me into becoming a Christian.

      January 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Joe

      Squiggy, here is the reading from a small booklet I read every morning for my devotionals (NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BIBLE).
      It is actually from a Human Being 5 years ago.
      Fay Weldon went through what she thought was a near-death experience in 2006 when an allergic reaction stopped her heart. She retold her experience to Elizabeth Grice of the London Daily Telegraph. She said that a “terrible creature” tried to pull her through pearly gates, while doctors tried to pull her back. Later, she said, “If that was dying, I don’t want to do it again.”
      This, my friend (whether you want to accept/beleive or not) is the creatures from H___. However, I don't expect you to beleive, as your heart is hard, like Pharoh's was.

      January 25, 2011 at 6:33 am |
  11. Bill Berry

    Okay, we all agree Governor Bentley is Christian; it is safe to say he's not Catholic and God forbid, Jewish, so what Protestant faith does he belong to that he failed to note that those who believe in God and those who don't all pay taxes that whether are brother or not are all citizens of the state of Alabama?

    January 21, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  12. South Side

    Jesus Christ people, what's the big deal? He's from ALABAMA, he said this in a BAPTIST church, so what? Anyone surprised? Even the rabbi said he's cool with it now. Relax.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Josh

      So because it is in Alabama it is ok? What if it was in Montana or Oregon or New Jersey? Would you still be trashing them? or Does the whole country just hate Alabama? I don't get it.

      February 5, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  13. James MacWhorter

    What ? ! ? ! Did you actually say "not even one true Christian has ever taken part in mankinds wars, ever"? I imagine there are a more than a few Christians here who would vehemently disagree with you, not to mention atheists who would find that statement outright delusionsional.

    The rest of it, well, that's one heck of a do-it-yourself Christianity you have going on there! Wow! Even the Christians here are thinking "What the hell is Philip talking about?"

    The Paradise Earth that you and Muneef will share is in Bellevue Hospital. Rooms available.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Muneef

      According to your intentions in your deep heart inner soul God would either make your earthly life lived as Paradise or as Hell....then after life as well depending on your intentions deep in heart and soul you will either end up as in Paradise or as in Hell... So you see God is capable of making life or after life for mankind as Paradise or as Hell...

      January 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • James MacWhorter


      January 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  14. Philip

    I will check back here early in the morning for further comments. I'm in Colorado, so I should be here by around 8am EST. goodnight all.

    January 20, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  15. Philip

    @James...not even one true Christian has ever taken part in mankinds wars, ever. As far as Muneef and I being in Paradise together, I was referring to the promised Paradise Jesus spoke of. (I know the Muslim paradise is not the same) Nothing can stop the earth from becoming a warm Paradise just as God has purposed. And nothing can stop the earth from being filled with those who love God and love neighbor. This is the true hope held out for the vast majority of us. The idea that you either go to heaven or hell is hogwash. A paradise earth is mankinds true hope as set out in God's word. For this to happen, all false-religions will be dealt with by their own governments, and these bloodthirsty governments will be dealt with by God's Kingdom when they set their sights on the few remaining true Christians who serve God no matter what the human rulers say. (and I hope you are there in Paradise Earth too!)

    January 20, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Dan

      Philip, I am a CHRISTian. How can Muslims enter Heaven? Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the father but by me". Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven. HE is lord of lords and king of kings.
      Phillipians 2 states that ONE DAY every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is lord.
      Muslims DO NOT beleive Jesus is savior. So please, explain to me how they can inherit the kingdom of heaven.
      As a matter of fact, Muslims don't even beleive Christ was crucified, so without the crucifixion you can't have true redemption/repentance.

      January 21, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Muneef

      The Quran said that each generation and followers would come on the Judgment day led by their Prophets&Messengers of God as for their intercession but after all the power is with God to accept or reject their intercession for their followers.
      As for us as Muslims we will be behind our Prophet Muhammed PBUH as our intercession...as to the rest God in the Holy Quran tell us that he made Jesus die and raised him to heavens and that it was not he who was crucified but some one who they thought to look like him or as a one scripture said that the person ware Jesus Cloth meaning what was he normally dresses up and known by....
      The Holy Quran always referred to the sons of Yacoob (Jacob) as the Sons of Israel before Essa (Jesus) and only then they became to be called as Nazareth or Nazarenes and never referred to as Christians as some Quran translations does show. But as for those Sons of Israel who rejected Jesus at that time they were become to be known as (Yahood) and never as Jews like Quran translation shown.

      Al-Maeda sura 05:
      Surely thou wilt find the Jews and those who associate the bitterest of mankind in enmity toward those who believe. And surely thou wilt find the highest in affection to those who believe those who say: we are Nazarenes. That is, because among them are divines and monks and because they are not stiff-necked. (82) And when they hear that which hath been sent down unto the apostle, then thou beholdest their eyes overflow, with tears because of the truth they have recognised. They say: Our Lord! we believe, so write us down with the witnesses. (83) And what aileth us that we should not believe in Allah and that which hath come unto us of the truth; and we long that our Lord will enter us with the righteous people. (84) Wherefore Allah will reward them, for that which they said, with Gardens whereunder rivers flow as abiders therein: such is the recompense of the well-doers. (85).

      January 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  16. Philip

    @Mr Sniffles...Jesus taught that God's Kingdom was a real government with Christ as King, and all of obedient mankind being it's earthly subjects forever. (and Jesus, nor any other bible writer ever used the word 'rapture') When Jesus said "the Kingdom is in your midst" to his followers, he wasn't referring to the Kingdom as simply being in their hearts. He, Jesus, himself was in their midst! Jesus taught that in the last days "The God of heaven will establish His Kingdom, and it itself will crush and put an end to all these other kingdoms[human governments]"..."bringing to ruin those ruining the earth." God's Kingdom is the only hope for mankind. Human rulers simply aren't up for the task. (I will be saying goodnight now, and will be looking for your future posts my friend) 🙂

    January 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      That makes no sense either. You say that the Kingdom of God had already happened because Jesus was "in their midst", but he very clearly is prophesizing future events. You correctly state that "Jesus taught that in the last days "The God of heaven will establish His Kingdom", but again, it was to happen within the lifetime of some of his listeners. Which has not happened, which you admit to because you hope it will be better than human government.

      Again, Jesus was wrong, and thus he was not omniscient, which means he is not what Christianity says he is.

      January 20, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Muneef

      An-Nasr sura 110:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      When Allah's succour and the triumph cometh (1) And thou seest mankind entering the religion of Allah in troops, (2) Then hymn the praises of thy Lord, and seek forgiveness of Him. Lo! He is ever ready to show mercy. (3)

      January 21, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Muneef

      Kingdom of God Allah not yet taken place but it will and that does not exactly mean whom you call Muslims but for all God Allah religions which was made many by people taking many directions...
      But after all we all worship one God the creator of the universe and all creations that which people had different names for or had different opinion of his look like or being...Jesus PBUH will be back then when it seemed time for God Allah to send him back down to establish the Kingdom of God Allah on earth where peace will be found and the sheep would eat,drink,sleep with out fear of the wolves...as told in all the holy books...

      January 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  17. Philip

    Ok Muneef! I am sure we will meet again remembering that there is only one true God, and even though our ancient ancestors split and went two different directions, that is no reason for you and I to hate each other. And I, I am also confident that one day you will be thanking me!!!(wink) Good night my new friend, and remember "sufficient for each day is it's own badness" and "do not let the sun set on you in a provoked state". Sleep well.

    January 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  18. Philip

    @Muneef...we posted at the same time. You did address Sura 4:89, but not to my satisfaction. (as noted above) AND!!! It's certainly nice to meet you sir. My name really is Philip. I love God and I love you my brother. I hope we both live to see Paradise! Wouldn't that be grand? Imagine like a thousand years from now I hear your name "Muneef!" being called upon, and I walk up to you and say 'Hi Moneef!!!! Remember me? Philip from back when there was such a thing as CNN?' Wouldn't that be just terrific! Our God has more in store for us than even we know. I hope to see you here again too. It's not often we get to hear from Muslims. 🙂

    January 20, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • James MacWhorter

      Philip, I don't mean any disrespect, but what you are saying is heresy. Both Christianity and Islam clearly state that you can only believe in the specific God of that religion, whereas you are presenting a pantheistic notion that both religions fully reject. Yes, Islam supposedly grew out of Christianity and Judaism, just as Christianity was born in Judaism, but Islam considers Christianity and Judaism corruptions of the pure faith, Christianity views Islam as a false religion and, well, they have gotten quiet on their views on Judaism recently, but for centuries they were pretty ugly. And Judaism views itself as the true religion of the chosen people, and Christianity and Islam both are false.

      And all three religions have been warring on each other and killing and oppressing each other for centuries. Christians and Moslems going to the same heaven? It would be a bloodbath.

      January 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Muneef


      That was the nicest words I have ever read in these blogs and I thank you for it...and greatly welcome it and yes we are brothers or cousins it is no difference. Yes look forward to paradise if may God has given mercy to my soul and look forward to meeting you there where our names will be called "first name" son of "mother name". As in "Jesus son of Mary".
      We have our different views but God only the best judge of all and it is not for us to judge but we may can only remind and warn as all prophets and messengers of God did,as told in our Holy scriptures and the Quran.

      January 21, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Muneef


      My first name is Muneef and is my real name...the name Philip was the first name I known to call in my childhood as we had a British Christian neighbors living in our building and their son was one or two years old that I used to play with when I was at the age of 3 to 4 years old. That was in Aden in mid 60's...

      January 21, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  19. Muneef

    Good night now from me and just hope you would read my gibberish even if you disbelieve in it...try to understand what it is trying to tell you... Maybe one day you will thank me for my efforts of copying and pasting it for you here to read facing your unreasonable fears from those words of wisdom...

    January 20, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  20. Philip

    @Muneef...just like the bible, there are many translations of the Koran. The two verses you quoted me as posting say the same thing. And I noticed you ignored the verse about Renegade Muslims who fight for the infidel forces(like American Muslims in the US military fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), and how fellow Muslims are commanded to deal with them. Also, I would like to read your thoughts on this matter, as wll as your thoughts on Arab leaders joining with the infidel American oil corporations.

    January 20, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Muneef


      At time of crusaders attacking jurselem, Salah El Deen was having troops of Muslims,Christian,Jews of that nation fighting the crusedores under his flag because they had justice and equality under his rule.
      So for Muslim troops serving under American flag as nationals and find justice and equality and not just mercenaries then there is no wrong here....Those Oil companies are business associates and nothing wrong here as well... The wrong is,if they would try convert you or lead you astray from path of righteous,justice and equality.

      January 21, 2011 at 8:14 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.