MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The governor of Alabama and a female staffer are no longer members of the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa following the release of audio footage in which the governor engaged in sexually-charged talk with the woman that suggested they had been physical with each other.
While it is unknown exactly when the church fellowship was ended or under what circumstances, Senior Pastor Gil McKee told Christian News Network on Friday, “While church discipline is a church family matter, both Governor Robert Bentley and Mrs. Rebekah Mason are no longer members of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa.”
“I continue to pray for each of them,” he added.
Bentley held a news conference earlier this week where he admitted to making “inappropriate comments” to Senior Political Adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who is married with three children, but denied that he had been involved in a physical relationship with the staffer. Audio footage of one of the telephone discussions suggests otherwise.
“I love you. I love to talk to you,” the governor says to Mason. “Baby, let me tell you what we’re going to have to start doing, we’re going to have to start locking the door. If we are going to do what we did the other day, we are going to have to start locking the door.”
Christian News Network has opted not to publish the more graphic content of Bentley’s phone calls.
The audio had been recorded by Dianne Bentley, the governor’s former wife, who divorced him last year after capturing Bentley speaking in such manner on the phone with Mason. She had suspected an affair and left her telephone recording in the room so she could hear his conversations with the staffer.
“I made a mistake,” Bentley said during a press conference on Wednesday. “Two years ago I made a mistake. … I have apologized many times to my family. I have apologized to the family of Mrs. Mason. I would now like to apologize to the people of Alabama. I ask them to forgive me.”
“I’ve been told about the possibility of tapes for two years,” he stated.
One reporter asked Bentley if he was in love with Mason, to which he replied, “I love many members of my staff, in fact, all the members of my staff. Do I love some more than others? Absolutely.”
When asked if Mason had ever asked him to cease his remarks, he said no, but also asserted that there was “no sexual activity.” Former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Director Spencer Collier doesn’t believe Bentley, and has accused him of using state resources in having an affair. Mason has accused Collier of “gender bias.”
State Auditor Jim Zeigler has now filed a report with the Alabama Ethics Commission, which will conduct a formal investigation into the matter.
“The governor continues to disgrace the state of Alabama, and in my official capacity as state auditor, I am required to report these suspected violations,” he told reporters. “It is clear that he is misleading the people of the state about the nature of his relationship, but it is also clear that Ms. Mason is required to either be classified as a public official, or file as a lobbyist, in her capacity as an adviser who is paid by an outside source.”
As Bentley made his remarks on Wednesday, he stood at a podium with a plaque that read, “May the person speaking here be ever mindful of the oath they have taken to serve God and his people with honor and integrity.”
He has refused to resign despite calls for him to step down in light of the revelations.
Bentley had at one time been a Sunday School Teacher at First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, as well as a deacon. As previously reported, his pastor was at odds with him last year after he asserted that he would follow a court ruling on same-sex “marriage” despite his personal beliefs against it.
“My encouragement to him two weeks ago was to not only get on board with Judge [Roy] Moore, but to instruct him as our governor to tell our probate judges not to abide by this one federal judge,” McKee told Christian News Network last February. “And obviously he had not taken that counsel at that time from me or anybody else.”