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. Thatguy371

    This twit will just do something else really stupid again... and again.
    AL has alot of good things going on. This isn't one of them.
    A giant leap backwards.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  2. Blessed Geek

    If and when I do get elected to be the governor of the banana republic of Alabama, I will declare that my friends and family are only those who believe in the Flying Spaghetti – not only so, but those who believe that the Flying Spaghetti should be imbibed and digested with hot Texan chilli sauce made in New York City. The rest are infidels, unsaved and will never make it to paradise nirvana. But then afterwards, I would apologize and say that I was misunderstood, though still firmly believing that my brother-, sister-, fraternal- and maternal-hood lies only with the hot Texan chilli denomination of the Flying Spaghetti cult.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • SpaghettiMom

      Speakest thou a filty lie, dirty Texas chili sauce trash! We traditional marinarist Flying Spaghetti believers are the only ones who will feel his noodley embrace! Only we marinarists shall go to his heaven and experience his divine beer volcano or his exotic dancer factory! All others shall sizzle in a nice butter-garlic sauce with the escargot for the rest of eternity!

      Flying Spaghetti Monster demands an inquisition to weed out the bad noodles! Flying Spaghetti Monster demands crusades against all infadels, mostly because the other religions had their fun with that already and it's our turn now! Flying Spaghetti Monster's motto is "apocalypse now!" (Well, it's actually "apocalypse in a bit, after Oprah is over and the margarita pitcher is empty."

      January 19, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Mark

      This thread was in dire need of some comic relief, you two are a gas...so to speak 😉

      January 20, 2011 at 6:56 am |
  3. Dave

    Might I also remind you people that...Jesus said these same things and they killed Him for it. No surprise the Governor is getting a little heat for his remarks

    January 19, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Picklejuice

      Sigh...are you seriously suggesting that he is "suffering" for being a christian the way jesus suffered? Newsflash...the governor is suffering for saying something incredibly childish and stupid, end of story. People like him have no place being in public office.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm saying he suffered because he echoed the words of Jesus Christ. He simply was repeating what Jesus said. Plain and simple. Anything else that people are all over him about..IE accusing him of not being capable of being fair and honest with everyone else is just judging him. It's accusing him of doing something he's not even done yet.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • rrogij

      Pickle Boy - it's time to move out of your parent's basement and grow up. You have a lot to learn in life pal. Grow a pair, grow up and make some serious decisions in your miserable life. Can't be a child your whole life.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • rrogij

      Pickle Boy finds himself in a pickle. Should he follow the Lord or rest on his prideful arrogance? Answer: He will choose the latter because his heart is hardened. Wake up Pickle - there's still time to commit your life to the Lord!

      January 19, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Picklejuice

      @ rrogij

      I'm a girl 🙂 tee hee

      January 19, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  4. Jeff

    Thank you, Governor for saying what the rest of us already know to be true: Christians favor other Christians, white Christians favor other white Christians and the rest of us are heathen and pagan and will burn in an eternal lake of fire. Why don't we just call these people out. Make'em say they believe the earth is 6000 years old, Noah was 900 years old (?), water can be made to wine....etc....

    January 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Dave

      Funny thing though Jeff is that practically all Christians who attended Church as a small child...one of the first songs they are taught is
      Jesus loves the little children of the world; Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

      Don't turn this into some racial thing. Geesh

      January 19, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • rrogij

      Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

      EVERY knee (not SOME, EVERY!) shall bow before the Lord. You can either bow now on earth...or you WILL now before Christ on judgment day. There won't be a choice. You WILL bow.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Bob Washington

      They also teach children about the easter bunny and at some stage they grow up and get smart enough to figure out that there is no easter bunny or Jesus. Well at least some of us grow up and get smart enough to realize this, not all of us, and the ones that don't move to the southern states!

      January 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • SpaghettiMom

      rrogij, how do you bow your knees?

      January 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Cathy

      Now, now, Bob Washington, some of us grownups who don't believe in Jesus live in southern states and it's not as bad as it used to be. We're not all Fundies and Evangelicals, you know. Some southern states actually have openly atheist folks elected to office, albeit local government, but still, we're making progress. Alabama needs a little work, but with baby steps, we're slowly getting the south to be a habitable place for non-Christians.

      January 20, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  5. MarkinFL

    Does anyone here count all the other people posting here to be brothers and sisters? Not just in words, but really feel it?
    If not, lay of the governor over his inane remarks and save it for a real issue.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  6. kevin

    why do we have to keep on apologizing to the jews ?

    January 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Slim Jim

      Because of the Holocaust, silly.

      Don't you know anything?

      January 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  7. All need foregiveness

    We (us gentiles) were grafted into the Jewish family. So be careful not to boast. Lest you will be cut off. Romans 11. His actions moving forward toward other faiths will be what counts. We must forgive others, so we may be forgiven..

    January 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Dave

      but...let us also be bold and honest as well and provide all things honest. Christians need and owe it to the world to plainly state that the Word of God says

      January 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  8. LeeCMH

    Anyone remember who had the committee made up of a "black, a woman, two jews and a cripple?"

    January 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • ArtInChicago

      Da Watt head

      January 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Mr. Watt left the Reagon administration after that comment.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  9. Bob Washington

    How unpatriotic! This is a great example of religious extremism. Elected officials should keep religion out of politics and govern with reason instead of unshared beliefs. Good luck Alabama, your gonna need it!

    January 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  10. Religion Rots your Brain

    Goodness. Religion has rotted his brain clean out of his noggin... Probably Ted Haggards brother....

    January 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  11. ArtInChicago

    Who knew Jesus was such a gangsta?!!!

    January 19, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  12. Geoiff

    Life would be a lot simpler if people just stopped getting their feelings hurt over which fairy tale is best.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      You don't ask for much, do you?

      January 19, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • GOD Help Us All

      Life would be even more simple if morons just kept their mouths shut in the first place.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  13. ForgetAllofYou

    Haha this is hilarious. This so-called "leader" voiced his opinions to a gathering of people whom he believed would agree and is now in the public spotlight offering up apologies left and right. And on top of all that, all of you bigoted idiots decide it is necessary to comment on a thread to make yourselves sound intelligent. What a freaking joke. You are all losers. Losers, I say. GET MERCKED BIZZNIZZLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • GOD Help Us All

      I'll just let the delicious irony of your comment speak for itself.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  14. gilberto lawrence

    sweet home alabammy mammy keep an ear open for more real insights into the gov. it's only week 2

    January 19, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  15. Joseph

    Oh, please. Hasty retractions won't make this go away; we already know how you feel, bigot.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  16. KAZ0819

    If the Rabbi or any other religious leader feels "disenfranchised" by mere words, perhaps they need to conduct a "gut check" regarding their Faith.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Since words are one of our primary forms of communication they could easily be the source of information that could make on feel disenfranchised.

      That aside though, this case hardly rises to that level.

      January 19, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Sigh. KAZ0819, the problem is not the faith. The problem is this man was elected to be the leader of the very earthly state of Alabama, in the very secular country of the United States. He can believe what he wants, but he cannot let that belief color his governorship of the state. I hope that he is being carefully watched, lest his behavior in secular life match the words spoken in his religious life.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  17. Maria

    The Governor was correct the first go around. We are not all brothers and sisters. I hope his compromise does not cost his salvation. Jesus doesn't like lukewarm, coward type followers....

    January 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I won't tell, if you won't tell.

      January 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  18. religious sects

    I'd rather hear him say it rather than just think it & keep quiet. This way we know who he really is.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Last I heard, being a Christian in this country isn't a crime....

      I feel weird defending a Christian that I would probably disagree with on just about everything. But right is right.

      January 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • religious sects

      MarkinFL... last I checked I didn't claim he was wrong. I prefer people who aren't hiding who they are and what they think, that's the only way we can truly know someone, even if I disagree with them. Truth.

      January 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Was his Christianity a secret during the election? His words did not reveal anything I wouldn't already have presumed from the moment I knew he was a practicing Christian.

      January 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm |

    Worthless Christian, taken down by Satan within 36 hours.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  20. john

    No matter if he apologizes, or states his words were not meant to sound like that...the bottom line is this...Christians believe that if you do not believe like them or accept Jesus into your heart you will burn in hell. That is the bottom line...everyone can dance around it all they want...So if the governor of Alabama is a Christian he believes that everyone in his state that does not believe in Christianity and Jesus Christ will burn in hell eternally...why is he apologizing then? To save his political career? To make everyone feel a little bit better about him until they are burning in hell when they die? A meeting with the guy is not going to change the fact that he thinks your going to hell...i mean, damn...talk about feeling disenfranchised...trying to have a conversation with a politician who puts out an apology and a smiley face when deep down in his heart he thinks you are going to burn with the devil eternally...gets some balls governor...tell us what you really, really, believe...don't leave out the hell part next time...

    January 19, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      A very good point. Every single self-professed Christian believes the same thing. So why are we getting so excited over one Christian official that merely talked about his sense of brotherhood with other Christians.
      Anyone have a big problem with a fraternity alumni that feels a special brotherhood with other members of his fraternity?
      Its the same kind of silliness. Why single out this one guy?

      January 19, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
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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.