Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Alabama Governor: Non-Christians are not my "Brothers"

In a speech to a Black church in Alabama meant to bolster his race-relations credentials, Alabama Governor-elect Robert Bentley promised that though "I was elected as a Republican candidate ... once I became governor ... I became the governor of all the people."

A lovely sentiment. Except for what happened next:
"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 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."

I'm not sure how many folks in a church don't "have living within them the Holy Spirit". But the bigger point, obviously, is the gratuitous demeaning of Jews and other non-Christians, with the Governor explicitly telling them that they are lesser people in his eyes.

The reason the Constitution forbids official religious endorsement is that, in the words of Justice O'Connor, "Endorsement sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community." Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (O'Connor, J., concurring). Alas, public pronouncement of the governor's views -- absent any legal effect -- are likely outside the purview of constitutional review. But the effect is the same -- everybody in Alabama now has had it made starkly clue which faith groups are insiders, and which are outsiders, in the current administration.

UPDATE: Jon Chait reminds us that "it's been months since the last neoconservative column upbraiding American Jews for their inexplicable failure to vote Republican."

UPDATE #2: Governor Bentley has apologized.


joe said...

Such pronouncements certainly should be "outside the purview of constitutional review," both on First Amendment grounds and for a very practical reason: it gives the public the public more information. Would it be better for the governor to regard non-Christians as outsiders without providing such a clear warning?

Chris Taus said...

All Christians are his brothers and sisters. Which means hiring Christians anywhere in the state government - the business he runs - is nepotism. Aren't their laws against nepotism? Won't the state govt have to hire only non-Christians during his term?