Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) got into trouble mere hours after taking office Monday, delivering an address at Montgomery's Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in which he said that he intends to be governor of all Alabamians, regardless of race, but that only those who have "accepted Jesus Christ as their savior" are his "brother" and "sister." Bentley apologized for his remarks, but not before atheists and people of different faiths blasted them as "disturbing" and "outrageous." Was Bentley out of line? (Watch an MSNBC report about Bentley's comments)
Welcome to the "big leagues," governor: Bentley is hardly the first Alabama governor to stick his foot in his mouth, says John Peck in The Huntsville Times. But hopefully he'll take a "valuable lesson" from his "baptism-by-fire indoctrination into his new job": You're governor now, not "Christian-in-chief," and what you say affects all Alabamians. For example, what are the chances Bentley can now lure to the state a company with "key officers of another faith"?
"Gov. Bentley learns a hard lesson on choice of words"
His actions matter more than his words: Bentley "can be my governor without being my brother," says Rabbi Beth Bahar of Huntsville's Temple B'nai Sholom, in The Huntsville Times. And so long as "his agenda will consciously include everyone," his "worldview" is at least one "the Jewish community has experience working with" in Alabama. We all "have an outlook," conscious or not, and it might even be a good thing that Bentley is "up front" about his beliefs and "biases."
"Faith leaders consider Gov. Bentley's brother-sister classifications"
"Context is important": "Many fellow evangelical Christians" probably agree with Bentley's remarks, says Abe Levy in the San Antonio Express-News, which doesn't mean the governor was smart to say such things "at the start of his tenure." His faith is now "an issue and controversy." But remember the context: Bentley was addressing "a fellow Christian audience at a church," and like it or not, those fellow believers have a "shared bond... that by nature can't be shared with non-Christians."
"Should elected officials wear faith on sleeve?"
Maybe Bentley's in the wrong profession: "Sure, [his speech] was delivered in a church," but he's not a preacher, says Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post. "As governor, you need to hide your light under a bushel basket for a bit and not go around telling people they aren't your brothers and sisters because they haven't been saved." That's a classic example of "what is not acceptable" in politics, and "if you chafe at this, perhaps you ought to consider another line of work."
"What was so wrong about Alabama Gov. Bentley's remarks"
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