Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the very church where Dr. King once pastored, new Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley gave a speech in which he said that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior are not his “brothers.”
Bentley spoke at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery just minutes after taking the oath of office on Monday. The new governor, who has been a deacon at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, first said that though he ran as a Republican, once he took office he “became the governor of all the people.”
“I am color blind,” Bentley said, according to The Birmingham News.
But Bentley then said that only those who are Christians and “saved” like he is are his brothers and sisters.
“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said. ”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 stopped just short of calling for non-Christians to accept Jesus Christ.
”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he said. “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.”
Asked by The Birmingham News afterwords if his words where meant to insult other faiths, Bentley said, ”We’re not trying to insult anybody.”
”He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike,” Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Bentley’s communications director, told the News.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: America Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day]
Dr. King was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church from 1954 to 1960. Early Civil Rights activity, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was directed by King from his office in the church. The church was designated a national historic landmark in 1974, and, in 1978, its name was changed to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.
TPM’s initial attempt to contact Bentley was unsuccessful.
(h/t Ben Smith)
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com