During the Civil War (they still call it the War of Northern Aggression down there), confederate soldiers from other states derisively called the confederate troops from Alabama "Yellowhammer." Of course, once Alabama's troops led the South to victory over the North and full and permanent independence, Alabamans proudly adopted the name.
Oh, wait. The South lost the Civil War. (My sister-in-law, who lived in Richmond, Virginia for a few years, looked at the boulevard with statutes of all the great confederate generals and called it "Losers Row," but I digress.) Alabama is known as the Yellowhammer State anyway.
None of that really has anything to do with the news out of Alabama today, but I hate to let a good state nickname story go to waste.
The thing is that Alabama has a history of what you might call intolerance and scorn for the niceties of constitutional law. You may remember (if you're old enough), George Wallace's inaugural address in 1963 when he was sworn in as Governor.
Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.
More recently, Alabama gave us Roy Moore. While he was Chief Judge of the Alabama Supreme Court, he arranged for a 5,280 pound granite monument of the 10 Commandments to be placed in the rotunda of the state's judicial building. The US District Court ordered the monument removed. The 11th Circuit ordered it removed. The Supreme Court denied Moore's cert petition. The other Judges had the monument removed to avoid a $5,000/day fine. And Moore was removed from office for flagrant disregard of the orders of federal courts. (Full story here.)
And now there's Alabama's new Governor, Robert Bentley. He was sworn in Monday. Apparently, he went right from the inauguration to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr., was once pastor. That was fitting, I suppose, on Martin Luther King day. But then, the Birmingham News had the story.
It seems that while explaining that even though he's a Republican, he plans to be Governor of all the people, and while explaining that he thinks King "was one of the greatest men that has ever lived," well, somehow he let loose that he may be governing everyone, but you know, we're just not all . . . . Ah, here's the Birmingham News.
"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said. ''But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister."
Bentley added, ''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 savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
Glad to know, I suppose, that he'd like to welcome me into his family. But a bit disheartening, I'd think, if I were a Yellowhammer, to be told right off the bat that there are the folks he's related to and then there are the rest. And that I was one of the rest.
According to Jay Reeves of AP, Bill Nigut, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said,
His comments are not only offensive, but also raise serious questions as to whether non-Christians can expect to receive equal treatment during his tenure as governor.
And Nigut added that
[I]t sounded like Bentley was using the office of governor to advocate for Christian conversion.
"If he does so, he is dancing dangerously close to a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government from promoting the establishment of any religion."
But you know, it's Alabama. Where the Tuscaloosa.