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. Brian

    ".this is the best that Alabama can put in office?."..........

    It could be worse. George Wallace was a governor of that great state. Wallace won five Southern states when he ran for president. Doesn't that tell you something about "Christians" in the South? Wonder if Alabama will ever have a black governor.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • moi

      lol...what does race have to do with any of this?

      January 20, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  2. moi

    to all....

    We all can have different views, faiths, believes and non-beliefs. That's your right. There are many Christian beliefs i don't agree with....starting with Catholics. But because we don't all agree on every aspect doesn't mean we have to hate each other or be disrespectful.

    I have no problem with this Governor making statements regarding his faith in church. I'd have no problem with ANY governor making remarks in their church (or religous location)-regardless of the faith! That's where things like that are to be said. He was in church, making comments. If he Jewish, and made a statement, fine. If he was talking about Buddha, fine, Ala, Mohammad or anyone else anyone wants to mention, I do not care.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  3. Norbert Octavious Gordon Orlando Demetri

    who cares, believing in made up gods does not make a sister or a brother. stop being ignorant there are no gods.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • moi

      and it is your right to believe what you want...and it is my right to believe what i want....that we can/should be able to agree on.
      And if you are right and there is no God, I have lost nothing. I have lived a good decent life. But if I am right, what have you lost?

      January 20, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • Daws

      Moi: He would have lost nothing either if he lived a good life. If you get a pass into heaven for the sake of a singular belief held, then anything is permissible. Only without heaven is there really concern over true wrongs wrought, for it is then, only here on earth that we can possibly work against those wrongs and for justice.
      What you lose in your belief of such easy access to heaven then is possibly motivation, and definitely your only chance.

      January 20, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  4. john316

    The South never fails to deliver.......this is the best that Alabama can put in office?...............good grief. I must have confused Alabama with Georgia.......

    January 20, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  5. alpeaston@yahoo.com

    Again another NON-APOLOGY apology! Like Palin, and others who have made disturbing remarks. "Sorry I said it!", is not the same as 'Oh I can see why what I said might hurt or distress others and I can see who wrong it is!" He is only sorry he is getting grief for saying it, not sorry that what he said was divisive and wrong! Go away, bigot, far far away!

    January 20, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  6. stacy

    His comments represent the very nature of bigotry.
    If a religion actually states the only way to god is through allegiance to only them.... and everyone else is doomed.... then you know you've affiliated yourself with the wrong crowd. fact.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • moi

      His comments represent the very nature of bigotry.
      If a religion actually states the only way to god is through allegiance to only them.... and everyone else is doomed.... then you know you've affiliated yourself with the wrong crowd. fact.

      I gotta break this down....lol
      "His comments represent the very nature of bigotry." Really? Please explain how this is bigotry? I'm dying to hear this!

      "If a religion actually states the only way to god is through allegiance to only them.... and everyone else is doomed.... then you know you've affiliated yourself with the wrong crowd. fact."

      If? Well, no "if" many religions do state that....regardless of the religion. I don't know any religion that allows you to believe in all the Gods you choose. I think most if not all require allegiance to that particular God. I could be wrong. Most religions do believe you are doomed if you do not accept that faith.

      So people are in with the wrong crowd because they believe in God? I can only say this....I believe in God. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me. I believe the ONLY way to everlasting life is through Jesus Christ. Not good works, money, volunteering etc. Nope, only through Jesus.

      January 20, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  7. Frank Burton

    Governor Bentley thoughtfully apologized to those of other, non-Christian, faiths whom his earlier heartfelt remark disenfranchised, and offered to hold interfaith meetings with them in the future - a good act to apologize and seek to redress harm. But he should also meet with, and assure he is likewise not disenfranchising, representatives of his non-religious brethren as well - our "secular" brothers and sisters from the Birmingham Atheists, Freethought Society, and Humanists. - Frank Burton, The Circle of Reason

    January 20, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  8. nru

    Joe Minnesota – thank you. For some reason, we cannot seem to connect severe religious beliefs with fanaticism that is reeking havoc on the world. My beliefs are correct, yours are terrible, and I must kill you to protect mine. God help us all, especially when "we has met the enemy, and he is us" – Walt Kelley, POGO.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  9. Coloradan

    Ok, so some GOP part bigwig, Karl Rove?, called him and said he needed to retract. Can't let the people know what we really think now, can we.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • moi

      would you prefer people not tell it like it is or would you rather they lie to make everyone feel better?

      January 20, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • moi

      I meant would you rather people tell it like it is, or would you rather them lie

      January 20, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  10. SeansCat

    I need to simplify. So when the South secedes this time, we won't need to raise an army.
    Be gone

    January 20, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  11. Joe Minnesota

    Screw this guy. This piece of crap shouldn't be allowed to hold elected office after making comments that fly in the face of what this country stands for.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • moi

      please tell me, what does this country stand for? Freedom of religion? Freedom of speech? please, tell me, what exactly did this "piece of crap" do wrong.
      and you said it yourself...he was ELECTED.

      January 20, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  12. Debin Denver

    other than a few....the overwhelming message I have seen from people from all walks of life, all political persuasions, all religious backgrounds..is.....that in this great country...we all have freedom of speech....but, we should all realize that words have consequences. Noone is saying (other than a few to Sarah Palin and and) "sit down and shut up"...but even to her I would say....if you claim to be a Christian then show it in your words and deeds. If not, then speak as you would have us speak to you. (Christ did not blame others for his speech...he chose his words carefully.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  13. Think!

    not beLIEve!

    January 20, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  14. Ariel

    That is not an apology. All he said was that he wants to say "sorry". Wanting and doing are two different things. This is a very cheap apology. An apology with integrity and value says, "I'm sorry for the statements that I made." Not "I want to say I'm sorry." I don't care what you want to say.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • moi

      What does he have to be sorry about?

      January 20, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Daws

      Oh posh... it's a figure of speech, even I can see that. Think of it this way "I want to say.... I'm sorry", or with a comma or semi-colon, which ever unpronouncible punctuation that makes the "I'm sorry" a separated thought.
      And Moi.... come on...

      January 20, 2011 at 6:18 am |
  15. moi

    is anyone upset when a fraternity refers to it's members as brothers? are your little feelings hurt because you cannot be considered a brother? lol..

    yes, this whole thing is that ridiculous.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Lido

      And you have still not answered the question.

      January 20, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • moi

      @ Lido,
      yes, i have answered your question several times now. I honestly don't care. I don't care what any religion is as long as the dont bother mine! I don't care that i'm not considered your brother or sister in any other group. I don't care when sororities get together and have their "sisters" hang out and do things. I don't care that Muslims have brothers, i don't care that Christians have sisters and brothers. I don't care the military people consider themselves brothers and sisters. If i don't belong to that particular group, it has no effect on me...and it should not on anyone else.
      Now, my particular faith, and groups that i belong to, yes, my feeling may be hurt if i was told i wasn't "one of them" ...but of course, again, only within my particular group/club(s) that i belong to.

      January 20, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Daws

      There's a big difference between calling someone a brother, and saying someone specifically isn't a brother. The former doesn't preclude that you therefore are, in contrast to him, not a brother. The latter explicitly states it.

      January 20, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  16. moi

    "Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters," he told parishioners at a Baptist church in Montgomery Monday shortly after being sworn in. "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."

    That's the Gov. quote...so please, tell me WHAT IS SOOOOOOOOOOOOO OFFENSIVE OVER THAT????????? seriously, get your panties out of a wad you babies! So, if you do not believe that big deal. obviously your are not a believer. The man does not have to give up his faith to govern. He's speaking at a church, not from the gov. office. jeesh. all of the political correctness is ridiculous....it's ruining our country. WAKE UP AMERICA AND SMELL THE COFFEE! LOL.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Lido

      I didn't say he said anything offensive. I asked would you, as a Christian, have been offended if he had said the same thing in relation to a religion OTHER than Christianity and a God other that Christ? You see, the problem I have with SOME Christians is that they won't answer a straight question. Instead they resort to name calling and insults.

      January 20, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • billp

      I'm sure you would feel the exact same way if an atheist/Muslim/Jew/some other non-Christian became a governor and said he did not consider Christians to be his brothers or sisters.

      January 20, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • moi

      As i stated before, I could not care less. If he was of another religion, I would not assume that I would be considered his brother or sister. No one really cares if someone considers you their brother or sister unless you belong to some sort of group together. His religous views are of his choice. He was speaking in a church. It's really not a big deal....

      January 20, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Lido

      billp: with respect, you would be wrong. I could care less about anyone's chosen religion. I find no one's religious beliefs offensive. What I don't agree with is mixing religion and politics. I firmly feel that religion should be kept out of politics and vice versa because mixing the two only creates more problems than it solves. This is a case in point. I simply presented a question, out of curiosity, to some of the posters that if he were of a different religion would they still defend him so vocally?

      January 20, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • nru

      Sounds like a fanatical terrorist to me – we should waterboard him, it's not a crime

      January 20, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  17. sweetcraver

    He apologized. That's a step in the right direction and sign that he's realized the need to outgrow that which keeps him from being governor for those outside the boundaries of his faith.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  18. VT_Citizen

    So the governor of Alabama is a Christian fundamentalist. In other news: Water is wet. Fire is hot.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  19. moi

    You ARE NOT my brother or sister....unless one of a few things have happened....one, you are biologically related to me through my parents, 2 you are my brother or sister through marriage (step brother/sister) 3, you are a dear friend that i consider as a brother or sister, or 4, you are a brother or sister of mine through Christ! Only Christians...nope, not a brother or sister of mine through any other religion...If you are Muslim, and you want to think of your muslim friends as brothers and sisters, fine....but i don't! And neither should this man if that is not his view.
    Damned if you tell the truth and damned if you don't.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Lido

      But as a Christian would you have been OFFENDED by him saying that only followers of Islam were his brothers or sisters? Would you vocally support his right to say that? Would you have felt slighted in any way? Would you feel that he would have a tendency to give preferential treatment to other Muslims?

      January 20, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • moi

      I would not be offended one bit...and i do not think honestly anyone else would be....they just want to whine about something.
      If someone in another faith did not refer to me as their brother or sister...fine... I know i'm not already. lol.

      January 20, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  20. jon w

    Apologetic christians make me sick!

    January 20, 2011 at 12:30 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.