Pastor pulls out of US inaugural due to anti-gay sermon
An evangelical pastor invited to give the benediction at US President Barack Obama's upcoming inauguration withdrew Thursday following revelations he gave an anti-gay sermon in 1990.
Louie Giglio had been called upon to pray at the January 21 inaugural event in large part due to his efforts to combat human trafficking around the world.
But the revelation by the group Think Progress, which uncovered the inflammatory sermon and publicized its passages Wednesday, cast a shadow over the participation of Giglio, whose statement Thursday was unapologetic.
"Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration," Giglio said.
Giglio, of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, said his attendance would draw him into "a fight on an issue not of our choosing," and would not serve his core message of "ending slavery in all its forms."
"Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever needs God's grace and mercy in our time of need," he said, adding that he will "certainly pray for (Obama) on inauguration day" and urged other Americans to do the same.
Think Progress identified Giglio as the preacher who gave a 1990 sermon on the "Christian Response to Homosexuality," in which he advocated "ex-gay" therapy for gays and lesbians.
In the sermon he also referenced the biblical passage Leviticus 20:13, which is often interpreted as requiring that gays be put to death, and he urged Christians to "firmly respond to the aggressive agenda" of the gay rights movement.
"That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle," Giglio had said.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee said it accepted Giglio's withdrawal and would find a replacement whose beliefs reflected the administration's "vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans."
"We were not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection and they don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural," committee spokesperson Addie Whisenant said in a statement.
Obama angered civil rights activists four years ago when he invited controversial Pastor Rick Warren, who opposes the broadening of gay rights, to give the benediction.