The Pentagon is allowing a pastor who’s called homosexuality “outside of God’s order” to stay on as an attendee of an event related to the National Day of Prayer — a move that’s drawing criticism from LGBT advocates who’ve called for his ouster.
Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesperson, affirmed Pastor Greg Laurie of the Harvest Christian Fellowship was invited to attend a Pentagon prayer breakfast — in accordance with the tradition of the National Day of Prayer — in response to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on calls for his removal.
“The National Day of Prayer is not a Pentagon event,” Platt said. “It was first established by Congress as an annual event in 1952, and the national observance is held on Capitol Hill. The Pentagon Chaplain has, however, invited National Day of Prayer chairs to attend a Pentagon prayer breakfast. In keeping with that tradition — first begun in 2004 — the Chaplain extended an invitation for Pastor Laurie to speak at this year’s breakfast.”
Platt continued, “The Defense Department places a high value on the rights of service members to observe the tenets of their respective religions, and values each and every service member irrespective of their race, religion, creed, gender or sexual orientation.” Platt said he had nothing further to add to the response.
Established by an act of Congress in 1952, the event is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May when people are asked turn to prayer and meditation. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray and a national observance is held on Capitol Hill. Laurie, who was named honorary chair of the prayer, is set to lead the Hill event and take part in a Pentagon prayer event along with other attendees of the national observance.
Laurie, the featured speaker of the nationally syndicated radio program “A New Beginning,” has a history of making comments that are deemed anti-gay and insists that being gay is a sin. He’s appeared on Focus on the Family’s “Family Talk” program hosted by James Dobson, whose wife, Shirley, is chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
The California-based pastor lays out his views on homosexuality in a section of his blog in which he condemns same-sex marriage and said being gay is outside of God’s order.
“The fact is, some may be attracted to those of the same sex,” Laurie writes. “As sinners, some of us are drawn to certain temptations and some are drawn to others. But that doesn’t mean that a man or woman should act on those temptations any more than a person who is tempted to steal, lie, lust, or murder.
The Human Rights Campaign and the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN, which posted a Change.org petition online calling for Laurie’s ouster, responded to the Army statement by accusing the Pentagon of passing the buck on events that it’s responsible for organizing.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, an HRC spokesperson, said the response insufficiently addressed the question of why he’s allowed to participate in religious events at the Pentagon despite holding anti-gay views.
“Saying the National Day of Prayer is not a Pentagon event misses the point entirely that the Pentagon Chaplain has invited Pastor Laurie to a Pentagon prayer breakfast – a fact they don’t dispute,” Cole-Schwartz said. “Parsing words does not change the fact that a pastor with a long history of vitriolic anti-gay rhetoric is being elevated by the Department of Defense. Evading the question of why he’s there in the first place is not a satisfactory response.”
Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, criticized the Pentagon for keeping Laurie as part of the event for the National Day of Prayer despite calls to remove him.
“It’s hard to see how an event sponsored by the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain, organized by that office, advertised with that office’s endorsement, and held at the Pentagon itself is ‘not a Pentagon event,’” Robinson said. “It’s similarly hard to see how the Pentagon can truly ‘value’ lesbian and gay service members while rolling out the red carpet for a religious leader who considers them to be sick and sinful and their families a danger to America. LGBT service members don’t need this kind of equivocation from their leaders; they need the kind of leadership Secretary Hagel promised.”