MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley apologized Wednesday for his inauguration day remarks about only Christians being his brothers and sisters and said he would work over the next four years for people of all faiths and colors.
Bentley, 67, said he didn't mean to insult anyone and was speaking as an evangelical Christian to fellow Baptists. The retired dermatologist, who replaced two-term Republican Gov. Bob Riley, is a Sunday school teacher and deacon at Tuscaloosa's First Baptist Church.
"If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way," Bentley said Wednesday.
During his speech, he remarked: "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."
His words quickly drew criticism. Richard Friedman, executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, said comments such as Bentley's "tend to disenfranchise those of a different religious view." Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, said Bentley's remarks were "quite disturbing." The president of the national Interfaith Alliance, the Rev. Welton Gaddy, said Bentley "went too far."
But some Christian leaders defended Bentley. The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery, the Rev. Jay Wolf, said he thought Bentley's words were misunderstood by the news media.
"He was trying to relay something that is fundamental to our faith, that people who believe in Jesus are related," Wolf said. "He didn't mean that he's not part of the brotherhood of humanity."
This report includes information from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.