Inaugural Pastor Withdraws Over Anti-Gay Remarks

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Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 10 2013 1:32 PM

Pastor Withdraws From Obama’s Inauguration Over Anti-Gay Remarks

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Rev. Louie Giglio said he withdrew because his message would have been "dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration"

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Controversy over the selection of Rev. Louie Giglio to deliver the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration later this month began growing on Wednesday after Think Progress revealed he had delivered an anti-gay sermon in the 1990s. In the sermon, Giglio not only advocated for reparative therapy, he also said Christians must “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda of not all, but of many in the homosexual community” in order to prevent “the homosexual lifestyle” from becoming “accepted as a norm in our society.” He also said "it is very clear" that "homosexuality is sin."

The revelation once again brought the possibility that Obama would anger his base with the religious selection of his inauguration after Obama offended many in the gay community by picking Rev. Rick Warren in 2009. But no. This time it seems the Obama team decided to get rid of any whiff of controversy as early as possible. Even though he was the one who technically withdrew, the Presidential Inaugural Committee released a statement that certainly makes it sound like he was at the very least nudged (via Think Progress):

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. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.
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Rather than apologize or reject his previous statements, Giglio aimed fire at his critics, releasing a statement saying he withdrew from the inauguration because “my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.” He posted the statement on his blog where he expanded a bit, but did not backtrack from his views. "The issue of homosexuality ... is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate," he writes. "However, individuals’ rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve."

The full statement Giglio sent to the White house is after the jump:

I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms.
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. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.
Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation. I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.
Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God’s grace and mercy in our time of need.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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