Governor: Only Christians are my brothers

Alabama's new Republican governor makes some controversial remarks about Jesus Christ -- on MLK Day

Published January 18, 2011 4:57PM (EST)

Robert Bentley
Robert Bentley

Robert Bentley, the new Republican governor of Alabama, delivered an oddly exclusionary message on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Birmingham News (via Political Wire) reports:

''I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor ... I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind."


''But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister." 

Bentley added, ''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, and I want to be your brother."

His press secretary later told the News, "He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike."

This is hardly the first time a Southern governor has gotten in trouble for making statements that offend non-Christians. At a 1992 Republican governors conference, Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice famously said:

"The United States of America is a Christian nation, which does not mean in any way to infer any kind of religious intolerance or any kind of particular dogma that that is being forced on anyone," Fordice said. "It is just a simple fact of life in the United States of America. ... And the less we emphasize the Christian religion, the further we fall into the abyss of poor character and chaos in the United States of America."

At that point, South Carolina's Carroll Campbell stepped up to the lectern and hastily extended that point to include America's Judeo-Christian heritage. The Washington Post reported what happened next:

Campbell then stood back, put his arm on Fordic's shoulder and said quietly: "I just wanted to add the Judeo part." Fordice, appearing to glare at Campbell, said: "If I wanted to do that, I would have done it."

By Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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