Anti-gay pastor withdraws

The Rev. Louis Giglio, who called homosexuality a "sin," has backed out of Obama's inauguration ceremonies

Topics: Barack Obama, Gay Rights, Inauguration, Evangelicals, Editor's Picks,

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article contained the headline “Obama boots anti-gay pastor.” Greg Green of the Presidential Inauguration Committee notes that it was Giglio’s decision to step down, and an effort is currently underway to replace him.

A spokesman for Giglio issued the following statement to ThinkProgress:

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.

The Rev. Louie Giglio has been removed from the program of President Obama’s second inaugural, where he was slated to give the benediction prayer, after coming under fire for delivering vehemently anti-gay sermons in the 1990s. Giglio, an evangelical pastor based in Atlanta, was selected yesterday to give the closing prayer at the upcoming ceremony, but less than 24 hours later has been removed, according to ABC News’ Jon Karl.

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While Giglio has tended to steer clear of hot-button social issues in the public realm, he has been a proponent of controversial ”ex-gay therapy” and once denounced homosexuality as a “sin,” warning that gay people will not go to heaven. As I noted yesterday, Giglio’s selection was reminiscent of Obama’s 2008 choice of Rev. Rick Warren, who enraged liberals and gay-rights activists with his stridently anti-gay message. The selection of both pastors was meant as a goodwill gesture to evangelical conservatives, many of whom distrust Obama, but it didn’t buy the president any points then and it likely wasn’t going to do so this year either.

For a president who has staked his legacy on advancing gay rights, selecting Giglio to give the benediction at his second inaugural was  incongruous at best, and offensive at worst.

If anything, Giglio may have been softer on homosexuality than Warren, but Obama seems to have learned his lesson and removed him before the event. Why he was selected in the first place — was the inaugural committee aware of his anti-gay past? Did they not bother looking? — is another question.

 

Alex Seitz-Wald
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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