BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A church in northeast Alabama is apologizing after Tim James, a Republican candidate for Alabama governor, spoke at its Sunday service.
Life Chapel, a church in Rainsville, said Sunday evening that it had removed the video of the speaker’s remarks from its social media page after what it called valid concerns “from so many.”
While the church did not mention James by name, video obtained by CBS 42 shows the gubernatorial candidate speaking in the church, a Life Chapel logo on the lower left of the screen.
In the video, James said that on a visit to downtown Richmond, Virginia, which he described as politically “blue,” he noticed that people around him looked like “they were from Mars.”
“There were tattoos from the head to the toe,” James said. “Some girl came walking by. I mean she was about six four, plus her heels, and she had a great big old mohawk, nothing down each side but a tattoo. And it was a freak show.”
James went on to discuss abortion, saying that “Roe is going down.”
Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, James said, “not one more abortion will occur in Alabama.” He said that overturning the decades-old legal ruling “pulls the rug out” from other Supreme Court precedents like Engel v. Vitale, a school prayer case, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the case legalizing marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.
These cases, James said, represent a “usurpation” of authority. “Who does that?” James asked the congregation. “Satan,” he answered himself.
In its lengthy statement, Life Chapel said that “the specific comment that concerned many people were concerning people that looked different, particularly ones with tattoos and certain hairstyles and clothing or lifestyle choices.”
“Our heart is that Life Chapel is a place where everyone feels welcomed,” the statement continues. “We have many congregants with tattoos, with interesting choices of clothing or things of the like. This statement did not reflect us well. We own up to it. Please forgive us.”
The church later said that its leaders “were in a bit of shock,” were “truly grieved” and “embarrassed.”
“We don’t have any other way to express our apology because there’s not one good enough,” the church said. “We should have looked deeper into the matter and made better judgment.”
The James campaign is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year, James released ads inaccurately attacking an LGBTQ-affirming charter school in the Birmingham area as “the first transgender public school in the South.” The ad, which featured photos of school staff and students at a fundraiser, led the school to increase its security and provide additional counseling to students.
In a statement sent after this article’s initial publication, the James campaign said it will not apologize “for anything Tim said in the pulpit of a church.”
“The church invited Tim to share his heart for the nation,” the statement said. “The comment in question, which prompted the church’s decision to remove the video, was an illustration which considered the time and season we are living in and the Azusa Street Revival in the early 20th century. Anyone with a discerning heart should not be offended but encouraged. We are not going to apologize for anything Tim said in the pulpit of a church.”