A Georgia-based pastor who came under fire for expressing vehemently anti-gay views in a 1990’s sermon has withdrawn from President Obama’s inaugural celebration, where he was previously scheduled to give the benediction.
In a statement delivered to the White House and Presidential Inaugural Committee, Rev. Louie Giglio of the Passion City Church announces his decision to “respectfully withdraw” participation from the Jan. 21 celebration in the wake of revelations of the anti-gay comments.
“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. “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.”
Giglio added he doesn’t 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” and will “continue to pray regularly for the President.”
In a separate statement, Addie Whisenant, a spokesperson for the inaugural committee, said organizers of the event weren’t aware of the anti-gay sermon when the initial selection was made.
“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,” Whisenant said. “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.“
ABC News’ Jonathan Karl first tweeted out the news on Giglio Thursday morning, saying “Rev Gigilo, who had been selected to give the inaugural invocation, has been removed from the program.”
The news came after ThinkProgress, a blog for the liberal think-tank known as the Center for American Progress, reported Wednesday that in the 1990s, Giglio gave a 54-minute sermon — titled “In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality” — which backs widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy, references a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and calls on Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from becoming accepted in society.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to comment when the Washington Blade asked him about the anti-gay sermon, saying he hadn’t yet seen the ThinkProgress report.
Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, said her organization applauds Giglio’s removal and had previously expressed concern about his participation to the White House.
“We let the White House know of our grave concerns about the choice of the Rev. Louie Giglio — a minister with a history of anti-gay statements who has engaged in spiritual abuse of LGBT people — to deliver a prayer at the inauguration ceremony. Having him deliver the benediction was a divisive choice, and we applaud his removal from the program,” Nipper said. “Furthermore, we commend Obama’s selection of Cuban-American gay poet Richard Blanco as inaugural poet, which had also served to magnify how out of step the choice of Giglio was. We are hopeful that Obama will now choose a faith leader who embraces fairness, equality and the ideals the president himself has called the nation to uphold.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also expressed satisfaction with the move.
“It was the right decision,” Griffin said. “Participants in the Inaugural festivities should unite rather than divide. Choosing an affirming and fair-minded voice as his replacement would be in keeping with the tone the president wants to set for his Inaugural.”
The full statement from Giglio follows:
“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.”
NOTE: This article has been edited for clarity.