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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bentley riles interfaith community

Newly inaugurated Gov. Robert Bentley has started out on the wrong foot, at least in the eyes of those who believe in religious freedom and individual rights.

Bentley apparently stepped on some toes with remarks he made at Dexter King Memorial Baptist Church Monday.

Bentley, a devout Christian and Baptist church deacon, told an audience gathered at the church in observance of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday that he would be the governor of all of Alabama, but only "saved" Christians were his brothers and sisters.

His Communications Director Rebekah Mason later clarified his remarks, after criticism rained down, essentially saying that Bentley would be governor of all, Christian or not.

But the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Alliance, didn't take too kindly to the remarks made by Alabama's new governor just minutes after his swearing-in ceremony Monday. Gaddy issued the following statement Tuesday in response to Bentley's comments:

“Governor Bentley’s comments at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church raise disturbing concerns for anyone committed to protecting religious freedom and maintaining the constitutional boundaries between religion and government in this country," Gaddy said in the statement. "The people of Alabama elected Mr. Bentley to lead the state, not to give him a platform from which to proselytize.

"Though Mr. Bentley promised to be ‘the governor of all the people,’ he immediately cast doubt on the sincerity of that statement by telling citizens in Alabama who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior that ‘you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister’—thus creating two classifications of residents in the state.

“It is somewhat ironic that these comments were made on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Dr. King’s own church. Dr. King embraced all those who stood with him in his quest for civil rights and gave his life for the establishment of a society in which there were no classifications of citizens identifying some as more important to government leaders than others. Mr. Bentley’s comments fly in the face of the example Dr. King set for us and throw in question the new governor’s commitment to religious freedom as promised in the United States Constitution.

“Mr. Bentley has a right to his beliefs, as do those who hold beliefs different from his, but he must remember his election conferred upon him the title and responsibilities of ‘Governor,’ not ‘Reverend.’”

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

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Anonymous Chris Taus said...

Playing devil's advocate: The man was in his church espousing his religious beliefs.
Those beliefs are absurd and worthy of criticism. It is concerning that such a person can be elected to a high office.

January 19, 2011 at 9:14 PM  
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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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