Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alabama Christian Governor: Do Politicians Have a Right to be Prejudiced?

Do politicians have a right to hold beliefs that are offensive to modern society? Do they have a right to espouse those beliefs in public? Should they be held to a higher standard than the rest of us?

Robert J. Bentley, the newly-elected governor of Alabama, is "raising eyebrows" according to the LA Times.
"If you're a Christian and you're saved ... it makes you and me brother and sister. Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. 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 ..."
The governor made these remarks in church, not during his official duties as the state's governor. Does that make it OK?

I don't think so. Governor Bentley abused the power of his office, plain and simple. He used the State of Alabama to promote Christianity. It may not be illegal, but it certainly is unethical. The governor should be ashamed of himself.

Governor Bentley has a duty to represent all of the citizens of Alabama: people of all faiths and no faith, people of all colors, male and female, young and old, Democrat and Republican. In private, he can hold any view he likes. But in public, he can't favor one group or another.

Public officials never have a truly private life. Like it or not, when you choose public service you become a full-time representative of your constituency. You are held to a higher standard of morality and conduct. If you don't like it, don't take the job.

When Governor Bentley took the oath of office, he gave up the right to be a bigot in public. He can disparage Jews, Muslims, humanists and atheists as unworthy of his brotherhood all he likes behind closed doors, but in public he represents the State of Alabama. And his church is a public place. By accepting the governorship, he agreed to hold himself to a higher standard.

Sadly, Governor Bentley failed the most basic test of a public servant – to represent all of his constituents fairly – on the very day of his inauguration. I predict it's downhill from here.


  1. It's definitely concerning. He bases his bigotry on religion so it's somehow acceptable, whereas race or sex discrimination or bigotry would be akin to treason. While the Governor's actions weren't atrocious, they were disappointing. We already have a political system that more or less demands Christianity from our politicians. We certainly don't need them excluding those with different beliefs, whatever they may be.

  2. They give "altar calls" in churches where a preacher or visiting speaker invites everyone to "accept Christ and get saved". I think he was just doing that, and in a church, it is appropriate.

  3. He is simply going too far. This man should not be allowed to hold office and he should be impeached immediately. No government official should ever promote a religion and they should NEVER tell the people they lead how to worship, when to worship or who to worship.

  4. FOLLOW UP: Governor Bentley issued a very nice apology for his remarks. He seems to be genuine in his desire to run an inclusive state government, and I applaud him for his clarification. Click here to read the follow-up story.

  5. The apology was nice, but it was also the all-too-common "public figure apology", where they shift some of the blame before the word even gets out there. IF someone ELSE was offended, THEN I'm sorry. All he had to say was that he was sorry that what he said offended people. I understand he believes in his religion, and that's fine, but he needs to be mroe careful, even in a high church attendance state like Alabama, to be inclusive of people from all flocks. Including those who DON'T worship (his apology includes that he defends everyone regardless of what they worship).

  6. Just to play devil's (heh, heh) advocate, I don't like what Bentley is saying, but couldn't it imply that as a Xian, he considers only other Xians his brothers and sisters? Could it be that's just how he defines it? Maybe he meant (although I doubt it) that atheists, Jews, Buddhists etc. may not be his siblings, but are just as good?


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