BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, who delivered a sermon that called homosexuality a sin and said that an "aggressive" homosexual agenda needed to be fought, will no longer give the benediction at American President Barack Obama's second inauguration, on Jan 21, according to several media reports.
ABC News's Jonathan Karl tweeted that Giglio had "come under fire for his harshly anti-gay comments" and will "no longer be giving the invocation at the inauguration."
ThinkProgress LGBT had uncovered an almost hour-long sermon Giglio gave in the mid-1990s, in which he said the gay "movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family." Giglio has also been a proponent of ex-gay therapy.
In a statement to ThinkProgress, Giglio says that while he was honoured to be invited to give the benediction, he has decided to withdraw from the program.
"Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15 to 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 15 years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ."
Following the revelation of Giglio's comments in the sermon, Addie Whisenant, of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, says members weren't aware of the pastor's past comments at the time of his selection.
"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."
Giglio's selection was baffling and disappointing to queer advocates, coming from a president who has increasingly sought the advancement of queer rights. The choice of another anti-gay pastor, Rick Warren, to give the benediction at Obama's first inauguration, in 2009 — meant as a gesture of goodwill to conservatives — had also angered activists. Warren ended up giving the benediction.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's deputy executive director, Darlene Nipper, applauds Giglio's "removal from the program."
"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. 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."
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin says selecting "an affirming and fair-minded voice" as Giglio's replacement "would be in keeping with the tone the president wants to set for his Inaugural."