The Atlanta pastor who was to deliver the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration has withdrawn from the event, a result of criticism over anti-gay remarks he made some years ago.
Rev. Louie Giglio, the founder of the Passion Conferences, has come under fire for a sermon in the 1990s calling upon people to fight the “aggressive agenda” of gay rights advocates. In that sermon, he said that the “healing power of Jesus” represented “the only way out of a homosexual lifestyle.”
In the sermon titled “In Search of a Standard — Christian Response to Homosexuality,” Giglio said, “People aren’t born gay — but even if they are, it’s still a choice like giving into alcoholism, addiction and overeating.”
Following Giglio’s withdrawal, Addie Whisenant, a spokesperson with the Presidential Inaugural Committee, issued a statement.
“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.
“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.”
The strong reaction to Giglio’s comments and his withdrawal indicates how far the attitudes have shifted in the United States about acceptance of gay Americans and their role in the country’s mainstream.
Four years ago, there was a controversy over the selection of Rick Warren, the author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. Warren was criticized by some for his opposition to same-sex marriage. Nonetheless, he delivered the invocation at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
This year’s inauguration will include Richard Blanco, an openly gay writer of Cuban descent, who will serve as the inaugural poet.
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(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)