Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rational Response- Governor Bentley

Separation of church and state.

Let that sentiment sink in for a minute…

Separation of church and state.

What does this term mean to you? It can bring forward some pretty intense feelings on both sides of the argument but, just to be clear, let’s outline what it means.

It means to have a secular government that is concerned with the rights and concerns of all individuals and groups regardless of their creed or culture, while not espousing the beliefs and concerns of only one thereby setting that belief on a higher level of importance.

It means to have a government that does not endorse one religion over another as its official religion or as the core of its value system.

It means to have a government that doesn’t “de facto” exclude a portion of its population by supporting as official doctrine a religion that is contrary to many of the segments of its populous.

NOT separating religion and politics violates freedom OF religion because it inevitably supports one over another and relegates other religions to second class citizen status.
Leaving your religion at home in politics is MOST important because it protects everyone.

It PROTECTS religion and everyone’s right to observe their own beliefs within the confines of the law of the land.

The point is that for a government official to purposefully exclude or single out one (or a few) segments of his constituency as unworthy by his religious standards is not only unethical since it was (at least partially) those same people who got him elected, but it is a violation of the principles that many modern nations were founded upon.

Enter Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

I represent you all equally, even more equally if you love Jesus!

In his inaugural speech he said all the right things and displayed all the traits that got him elected in the first place.

He said very clearly that he wanted to be a leader who represented every single one of his constituents as fully as any other.

"(I am) Governor of all of Alabama; Democrat, Republican and Independent, young and old, black and white, rich and poor."

Sounds great! It has been far too long in political discourse that a politician has come along who wants to forget the partisan divide and represent everyone equally.

So where is the problem?

The problem began only a few hours later when he was reported by the Birmingham News to have said-

“If you're a Christian and you're saved, it makes you and me brother and sister," and "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 saviour, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."

And now we have entered into the realm of the politically unethical. Gov Bentley has raised some eyebrows with these remarks and rightly so.

Certainly the religious organisations were outraged by his singular display of kinship with only one portion of the population and his dismissal of all others. He tries to maintain the high road by expressing how much he desires those who are not his “brothers” to become so.

How can they do so? He is very clear that the only way that he will accept all others as his “brothers and sisters” is if they betray all of their deeply held beliefs and join his, one true religion.


How can a politician, in all good conscience, betray a large portion of the people who trust him to represent their interests fairly by telling them, in one breath, that he will treat ALL Alabamans equally and then in the next that he feels a special kinship with only a certain portion?

How can he reject all Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Sikhs, Pagans, and everyone else by telling them that he will only fully accept them if they agree with HIS ideology?

The answer is because he doesn’t care about those groups. He has fallen prey to that failure in moral imagination that allows him to forget how people will be offended by being told that they are not good enough.

Now I will say this;

He may actually be able to fairly represent those that he feels are not his “brothers and sisters” but, after being so summarily dismissed, how can anyone who is NOT of this family ever trust that he even wants to?

Are you SURE that I am welcome here?

A message to the Governor-

Sir, you are the representative of a large body of people whose beliefs are varied and far reaching. You have also taken on the responsibility to be guardian to them ALL equally. Not just to represent their interests equally but to always carry the appearance of recognizing their equality.

You violate these principles by publicly identifying your favourites.

You violate the principles of your office by bringing religion into the public forum, and you display for everyone how little you understand the concept of the separation of church and state.

Freedom OF religion means freedom FROM religion.

If you can’t understand how this best protects everyone, atheists and theists alike, or even why it is important to appear to have everyone’s interest at heart equally and to keep your religion to yourself, then I am afraid that you have taken on an office that you don’t deserve.

This should concern everyone, most of all you.

You owe the people of Alabama an apology and you owe your own office and position far more respect than you have shown it thus far in your very early gubernatorial life.


Edit- He has since apologized for his remarks.  Is this a case of too little too late or has he already revealed himself?


  1. He already revealed himself. Also, the one's he invited to be present for his public apology did not include any non-religious.

  2. Well said. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to religious belief. I do not believe in god(s), but others do and that I'd like to think that that is okay. We should each be able to decide for ourselves.

    Where I stumble is when otherwise intelligent people seem to genuinely not be able to see the offense in their religious comments (such as the case with the Governor). Religion often seems to cause a rational blind spot. That worries me because we don't know how this blind spot will influence the important decisions that affect people of all (or no) faiths.