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So, is this a violation of First Amendment rights?


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#1 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4680

Posted 19 January 2011 - 10:08 AM

From Yahoo!
"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," Bentley said Monday, his inauguration day, according to The Birmingham News.

Now he's the newly inaugurated Gov. Bentley of Alabama. I don't know why you would choose to say such a thing on the first day on the job. And he seems to be coming dangerously close to promoting if not pushing Christianity on his constitutents.

Does anyone think, regardless of the Constitution, this was appropriate or even intelligent to do?
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#2 trzy   Members   -  Reputation: 100

Posted 19 January 2011 - 10:14 AM

It's certainly not appropriate for a governor to be making statements like this, but I don't think it's a violation of your rights just yet, not until he actually does something to violate the establishment clause. Leaders are certainly allowed to express their religious beliefs. A deeply faithful society such as our own needs to reasonably accommodate this.
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#3 Ravuya   Moderators   -  Reputation: 127

Posted 19 January 2011 - 10:20 AM

Dude is a complete asshole and is using his position of power as a bully pulpit.

However, I wouldn't be particularly surprised if he could get away with it in Alabama; it's not a very diverse state. My guess is that his jab is aimed mostly at Muslims and atheists/agnostics and not so much Jewish people, though I would say that Jews definitely fall outside of his criteria as stated.

If you have faith in the democratic system, you'll hope that he will be smacked down if he tries to introduce discriminatory legislation, but be free to speak from his position of ignorance. It is a little worrying that he managed to make it through the gauntlet of American political life without someone using this kind of belief to destroy his career, but that might be an artifact of the environment and the severe "with us or agin' us" political polarization, and not so much a failure of the system.

I'm not too familiar with the American federal government - I assume the Supreme Court would have the authority to eventually override whatever he introduced if it were discriminatory and challenged in court repeatedly?

#4 superpig   Staff Emeritus   -  Reputation: 1825

Posted 19 January 2011 - 10:24 AM

Preventing him from saying such things would be a violation of his First Amendment rights.

It doesn't seem like a smart thing to say, though. He's already been elected, so I don't see what he's got to gain by it, and it's definitely going to antagonize some people, like Alpha_ProgDes.

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#5 irreversible   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1202

Posted 19 January 2011 - 10:43 AM

He's already been elected, so I don't see what he's got to gain by it


Could it be that, based on said statement, he might not be out for any particular gain, but rather good old politicized evangelism?

#6 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18849

Posted 19 January 2011 - 10:49 AM

1) I don't know why you would choose to say such a thing on the first day on the job.
2) And he seems to be coming dangerously close to promoting if not pushing Christianity on his constitutents.
3) Does anyone think, regardless of the Constitution, this was appropriate or even intelligent to do?

1) Most likely he has many reasons to say it, more than just one. Possibly because certain religious groups were key to getting him elected. Possibly because he has strongly held religious beliefs and wants to share them. Hopefully because he holds or at least agrees with those beliefs. It is fairly unlikely, but possibly because he is just pandering to the crowd.

2) Not at all. There are unfortunately many people in this nation who hear a political official state their opinion and interpret it as government establishing a religion. The establishment of religion is not, nor was it ever, designed to keep religion out of government. Quite the opposite, founding documents and a huge body of evidence show that it is preferable for our nation's leaders to have religious convictions. The complete so-called "separation of church and state" is a recent popular concept with no basis in our nation's actual law.

As with many systems, policies tend to drift from one extreme to the other, then back and forth, as a pendulum. There have been many times in our nation's history where leaders would not get elected without support from pastoral leaders. Other times leaders needed to publicly eschew portions of their religion. Consider JFK needing to publicly state that he is not controlled by the Pope, while at the same time pleading for support at the Ministerial Association where he gave the speech. The policy pendulum has most recently swung away from religion, but over the past few decades has been moving back toward the more religious side.

3) It could be. He was elected to represent the people of his state. The state is right in the center of the "bible belt", where most everyone has deep religious beliefs. Wikipedia lists some of the state demographics: "In a 2007 poll, 92% of Alabamians reported having at least some confidence in churches in the state. In the 2008 Ameican Religious Identification Survey, 80% of Alabama respondents reported their religion as Christian (other than Catholic,) 6% as Catholic, and 11% as having no religion at all."


Re-reading the quote with that in mind, he is saying that he is firmly part of the 86%+ of the population, and asking for the 11% minority to join him. He is establishing himself as a part of the group that has 92% approval and 86%+ representation. Politically that can be a very wise move.
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#7 ddn3   Members   -  Reputation: 1248

Posted 19 January 2011 - 10:53 AM

He's a hard core conservative Christan.. they are like that. I doubt he's going to pass Christan Law anytime soon, the US is too secular for that and too many non-Christan.. It's all just politics until they start mandating prayer service in schools.. then I would be worried..

#8 Antheus   Members   -  Reputation: 2393

Posted 19 January 2011 - 11:23 AM

Being a brother or a sister of a governor sure has its benefits...

Also:
... one nation under God, indivisible, with ....

#9 UltimaX   Members   -  Reputation: 467

Posted 19 January 2011 - 11:34 AM

I work for the government and this surprises me... In private you may hear people discussing religion, but you never hear about it just roaming the hallways and nobody pushes it on you either. For instance, we talked about Masons yesterday at lunch because someone running for Mayor here is a Mason and proud of it. Would he ever publicly say something like that to the citizens? Highly doubt it... Does he talk about it in private? Sure does! He's going to get every Mason's vote just because he belongs to the "club" so of course he's going to make sure that leaks out.

This guy has no benefits though, as someone mentioned, and is borderline crazy to do such a thing. His popularity rating just went down most likely because of it. I see him making it one term...

#10 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4680

Posted 19 January 2011 - 12:13 PM

Preventing him from saying such things would be a violation of his First Amendment rights.

It doesn't seem like a smart thing to say, though. He's already been elected, so I don't see what he's got to gain by it, and it's definitely going to antagonize some people, like Alpha_ProgDes.

I read something that arches my brow and now suddenly I'm getting jabbed at. Nice.
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#11 stonemetal   Members   -  Reputation: 288

Posted 19 January 2011 - 12:23 PM

Being a brother or a sister of a governor sure has its benefits...

Also:
... one nation under God, indivisible, with ....


Interestingly enough "under God" wasn't added until after world war 2.(1954 according to wikipedia)

#12 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4680

Posted 19 January 2011 - 02:07 PM


Being a brother or a sister of a governor sure has its benefits...

Also:
... one nation under God, indivisible, with ....


Interestingly enough "under God" wasn't added until after world war 2.(1954 according to wikipedia)

Even more interesting is the fact that the government put that in there to counter USSR's official religion of atheism. One can argue that the government declaring the US a "Christian" nation (though admittedly it's a bit ambiguous) is a way of forcing religion onto the populace. Also note that dollar bills added references to God as well.
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#13 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 17125

Posted 19 January 2011 - 02:20 PM

Well, he was addressing a church crowd. It's not like he called a press conference and said, "I hate atheists". He was (according to the article) talking to a crowd in a church, and all I take his statement to mean, is that he's not going to be a Christian in word only but in practice, i.e. that he's conservative. I think mostly it was a dumb statement to say, and that the media was quick to jump onto it (as he should've realized).
Christians all the time refer to each other as 'brothers in Christ' - It was Jesus Himself who made that statement first.
The governor made a stupid statement, by trying to explain the negative. But I don't think his intended meaning was, "I hate atheists", more that, while speaking to people in a church, "I'm your brother in Christ, and I'll do my best to hold to Christian values in office".

My guess is, what his speech said (if he had one) was, "If the Holy Spirit lives in you that makes you my brothers and sisters." full pause, realizing that there might be non-Christians in the audience, "Anyone who has not accepted Jesus, I want to be your brothers and sisters, too,". Then trying to clarify, but digging himself deeper, "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,"</span>
Which is part of his beliefs. Everyone is his neighbor, and if you're saved, you're his brother. The only potentially offensive remark is, "you're not my brother", but I doubt he actually wrote that into his speech, and was trying to explain his previous statement but putting his foot in his mouth while doing so.

That's my guess at how it went, but I can't find a video of his speech, so I can't be sure.

Note this is not his inauguration speech. He gave his inauguration speech at the capitol. This is a speech he's giving to a bunch of people in a church, after he gave his inauguration speech. ("Speaking at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church after the official inaugural ceremony") The article tries to make it sound like this was his inauguration speech, even posting a picture of the inauguration speech next to the article, and emphasizing several times, "just moments after inauguration", "inauguration day", etc...
If I walked up to someone and said, "You're not my brother", they'd say, "duh". It's not offensive, it's an obvious statement of what is true. It only became offensive when people think he was intentionally trying to exclude people in his statement, when in reality, it seems to me that he was trying to say to a group of people that "I'll hold to our common values when in office", and "You're like family to me". Only in trying to qualify his statement did he switch from making a positive statement, to trying to explain the negative, and even then, he was saying, "but I want to be".

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#14 kryat   Members   -  Reputation: 685

Posted 19 January 2011 - 03:19 PM

I think this thread needs more Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

#15 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4680

Posted 19 January 2011 - 04:52 PM

Well, he was addressing a church crowd. It's not like he called a press conference and said, "I hate atheists". He was (according to the article) talking to a crowd in a church, and all I take his statement to mean, is that he's not going to be a Christian in word only but in practice, i.e. that he's conservative. I think mostly it was a dumb statement to say, and that the media was quick to jump onto it (as he should've realized).
Christians all the time refer to each other as 'brothers in Christ' - It was Jesus Himself who made that statement first.
The governor made a stupid statement, by trying to explain the negative. But I don't think his intended meaning was, "I hate atheists", more that, while speaking to people in a church, "I'm your brother in Christ, and I'll do my best to hold to Christian values in office".

My guess is, what his speech said (if he had one) was, "If the Holy Spirit lives in you that makes you my brothers and sisters." full pause, realizing that there might be non-Christians in the audience, "Anyone who has not accepted Jesus, I want to be your brothers and sisters, too,". Then trying to clarify, but digging himself deeper, "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,"</span>
Which is part of his beliefs. Everyone is his neighbor, and if you're saved, you're his brother. The only potentially offensive remark is, "you're not my brother", but I doubt he actually wrote that into his speech, and was trying to explain his previous statement but putting his foot in his mouth while doing so.

That's my guess at how it went, but I can't find a video of his speech, so I can't be sure.

Note this is not his inauguration speech. He gave his inauguration speech at the capitol. This is a speech he's giving to a bunch of people in a church, after he gave his inauguration speech. ("Speaking at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church after the official inaugural ceremony") The article tries to make it sound like this was his inauguration speech, even posting a picture of the inauguration speech next to the article, and emphasizing several times, "just moments after inauguration", "inauguration day", etc...
If I walked up to someone and said, "You're not my brother", they'd say, "duh". It's not offensive, it's an obvious statement of what is true. It only became offensive when people think he was intentionally trying to exclude people in his statement, when in reality, it seems to me that he was trying to say to a group of people that "I'll hold to our common values when in office", and "You're like family to me". Only in trying to qualify his statement did he switch from making a positive statement, to trying to explain the negative, and even then, he was saying, "but I want to be".

If that's what actually happened, then yeah, he has a case of "Kerry-itis". But all you're doing is filling in a large hole with an assumption and saying, "See it's not what you thought. It's not that bad."

If you went up to someone and said, "you're not my brother", most people would likely respond with "WTF?!" as opposed to "duh".

Plenty of politicians, laymen, and clergymen have expressed the concept of "brothers in Christ" without having to say "you're not my brother, you're not my sister." Also, I'm pretty sure and I could be wrong that church doctrine (at least my church) says that "we are all children of God, in the eyes of God." So the bit that he said was really unnecessary and I personally don't think it was a Kerry moment or slip-of-the-tongue either.


(note: I don't want to make this a religious argument, so I'll make one rebuttal to whoever and continue this thread as a "First Amendment/WTF was that politician thinking?" thread.)
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#16 Antheus   Members   -  Reputation: 2393

Posted 19 January 2011 - 05:41 PM

Well, he was addressing a church crowd


Now imagine he were talking at a mosque... What if he referenced some other prophet, more suitable for such occasion.

#17 Dragonsoulj   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2008

Posted 19 January 2011 - 05:56 PM

First Amendment violation, no. Separation of church and state, debatable. He isn't forcing his religion on anyone. It's more of a request.

#18 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 19 January 2011 - 06:08 PM

First Amendment violation, no. Separation of church and state, debatable. He isn't forcing his religion on anyone. It's more of a request.

I do think what he said was like political suicide and stupid. If he replaced christianity with a college fraternity, his meaning would be practically the same, but the motivation would be association/organization based rather than religious.


Just goes to show how religion can make non-controversial things incredibly controversial.

#19 trzy   Members   -  Reputation: 100

Posted 19 January 2011 - 08:55 PM

Well, he was addressing a church crowd


Now imagine he were talking at a mosque... What if he referenced some other prophet, more suitable for such occasion.


Based on my experience, people would be tripping over themselves to stand up for his first amendment rights and imploring me to read the Quran to "understand" the Religion of Peace. Then they would tell me how all problems in the middle east can ultimately be traced back to the West and Christianity, so in a way, America's chickens are just coming home to roost.
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#20 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4680

Posted 19 January 2011 - 09:50 PM


First Amendment violation, no. Separation of church and state, debatable. He isn't forcing his religion on anyone. It's more of a request.

I do think what he said was like political suicide and stupid. If he replaced christianity with a college fraternity, his meaning would be practically the same, but the motivation would be association/organization based rather than religious.


Just goes to show how religion can make non-controversial things incredibly controversial.

Yeah.... those two things are so much alike [rollseyes]
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