MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A recent sermon delivered by the pastor of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley reveals that Bentley’s recent decision to follow a federal court ruling striking down the state’s Sanctity of Marriage Act as being unconstitutional is at odds with his church’s teachings on obeying God rather than men.
“Here’s what I said to our governor yesterday,” Gil McKee, pastor of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa, told the congregation on Feb. 8. “‘Governor, I don’t care if all 49 states go for this same-sex marriage business, let’s be different in the state of Alabama. Let’s do what we know is the right thing to do. If you’ll just step up and lead out in this thing, if you’ll give the word to our chief justice to call all our probate judges … and say, ‘Don’t you issue one single license until the federal government does their thing and until we decide whether we’re going to follow that or not; don’t issue one of them,’ I’m telling you the people of this state would rally behind that.”
But as previously reported, Bentley told Politico on Friday while attending a meeting of the National Governor’s Association in Washington, D.C. that he believes he must obey the courts even if he disagrees with them personally.
“[I would] never do anything to disobey a federal court ruling,” he told the outlet when asked about last month’s same-sex “marriage” decision, which Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has called on others to fight.
“We are a nation under laws,” Bentley said. “We may not always agree with them, but we obey them.”
The governor, who is a longtime member of the church and once served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher, additionally told AlabamaNews that while he and Moore have the same convictions, they differ when it comes to compliance with federal court rulings.
“I don’t want Alabama portrayed in a negative light because when it’s portrayed in a negative light, it doesn’t help me to recruit jobs in Alabama,” he said. “So I’m hurting families when I can’t help people get a job in this state.”
“I want to do everything I can to make sure the people across the country, the people across the world, realize that Alabama is a different state,” Bentley stated. “And I will obey the law and that’s what I’m going to do.”
However, McKee explained in his sermon that he had advised Bentley that it is the Christian’s duty to obey God rather than men, just as God’s people did in Scripture.
“There’s nothing grey about this issue—not if you’re going to go with what God says, and God has made it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman, period, and that settles it,” he stated. “The issue is, are we going to go with God, or are we going to go with somebody else?”
He provided the example of Daniel, a ruler in the Babylon government under Nebuchadnezzar, who chose to defy an official decree rather than betray God.
“[Daniel] ended up in a high place, and all of a sudden the king comes up with this law that says, ‘You will do this. You will not pray to anyone other than this statue’—this golden statue of himself,” McKee explained, then alluded to Bentley’s reasoning. “Well, Daniel didn’t have to spend days wondering, ‘Oh, should I do that? Should I not? Is that going to affect my place here? Is that going to affect whether people are going to come in with business to the state?'”
“No, he already knew. He knew that he would only pray to God,” he continued. “So what did he do? He defied that mandate. He just kept praying to God. He wouldn’t bow down and pray to that statue.”
McKee then told the congregation that in return “God rallied behind Daniel” because he did what was right.
He called upon the Christians in Alabama government to likewise do what is right in the eyes of God when it comes to same-sex “marriage.”
“Rich Wingo, the rest of the legislature, Gov. Bentley, Chief Justice Moore, the rest of you folk, Luther Strange—as one citizen of this state, I am asking you as confessing committed Christian men to do the right thing no matter what the consequences,” McKee declared. “Do it.”
“Somebody said, ‘What’s the right thing?’ The right thing is you stay with God’s definition of marriage, and if they drag us to court, if they drag us to jail, if they drag us to D.C., come on and drag us,” he continued. “Because I can tell you as Peter and John said, ‘I will obey God rather than men.'”
He later exhorted the congregation to contact the governor and other government officials in Alabama, and urge them to honor God.
Two years ago, First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa adopted a declaration that includes its commitment to defending biblical marriage.
“First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa will continue to uphold and support the biblical institution of marriage,” it reads in part. “In an effort to restore a sound, biblical, and healthy marriage culture, First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa will refuse to redefine marriage or recognize and/or perform same-sex or multiple partner marriages.”
McKee told Christian News Network on Monday that the leadership of the church has been “praying for God to give [Bentley] courage” to resist the pressure from the world and “do what is right in God’s eyes.”
“My encouragement to him two weeks ago was to not only get on board with Judge Moore, but to instruct him as our governor to tell our probate judges not to abide by this one federal judge,” he explained. “And obviously he had not taken that counsel at that time from me or anybody else.”
But McKee also said that the situation has presented “new waters” and that he is handling the matter with Bentley to the best of his ability.
“I’m trying to do everything I can do to encourage and to help him understand the support he would have biblically, [and also] the support he would have from the people in this state,” he said.