Rabbi warns Alabama governor over brotherhood comment
BIRMINGHAM (Reuters) - A prominent Alabama rabbi warned new state Governor Robert Bentley on Wednesday against using religion as a wedge after Bentley said only Christians who were saved were his brothers and sisters.
Bentley, a Republican, said in a speech the day of his inauguration on Monday that people who were not saved were not his brothers or sisters because they did not share the same "Daddy", a reference to God.
Bentley was speaking in honor of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King at the church in the state capital from which King led the celebrated Montgomery bus boycott that in 1955 launched the era's crusade against segregation.
"It is very important that the Governor is a uniting force and does not use religion as a wedge to divide Alabamians," said Rabbi Jonathan Miller of the Temple Emanu-El, in Birmingham, the state's largest city.
"We were troubled by his remarks and the sentiments they presented," Miller told Reuters, adding that he had sent Bentley a letter "explaining my concerns and to introduce him to the Jewish community in Birmingham."
"I appealed to him not to divide us," he said.
Bentley was due to issue a statement on the matter later on Wednesday, aides said.
Political analysts said state leaders had worked for years to overcome the state's reputation for intolerance gained because of official opposition to civil rights, and they said they feared Bentley's remarks could help revive that image.
In remarks quoted by the Birmingham News newspaper, Bentley said: "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."
"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," he said.
"But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have ... 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," he said.
"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," he said.
(Writing by Matthew Bigg, editing by Greg McCune)
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