Rabbi Saperstein: "Gov. Bentley and Rep. Cohen's comments, though different in context and word, erode the atmosphere of civility and open-mindedness that is indispensable to the health of our democracy."
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 20, 2011 -- In response to troubling comments and subsequent apologies made this week by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (TN), Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
In the last several days, troubling rhetoric has been used by both Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama and Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee. Gov. Bentley and Rep. Cohen's comments, though different in context and word, erode the atmosphere of civility and open-mindedness that is indispensable to the health of our democracy.
Both Rep. Cohen's comparison of some arguments in opposition to the new health reform law to the Nazi propaganda machine under Joseph Goebbels and Gov. Bentley's suggestion that only Christians are his brothers and sisters in the context of his swearing in day were ill conceived and divisive. Both have expressed their apologies to anyone who was offended and we commend them for their apologies and we welcome those sentiments. At the same time, we hope both Rep. Cohen and Gov. Bentley will use these unfortunate episodes as an educational opportunity and share with colleagues why this rhetoric that divides people along religious lines and rhetoric that suggests comparisons between Nazi atrocities and public policy debates are counterproductive.