The Rev. Louie Giglio, the Atlanta-area pastor chosen by President Barack Obama to deliver a benediction at his second inauguration, has withdrawn after anti-gay comments from a mid-1990s sermon surfaced.
On Wednesday, the Presidential Inauguration Committee announced that Giglio, who pastors Passion City Church in Roswell, Ga., would deliver the benediction at the Jan. 21 inauguration.
However, soon after the announcement, ThinkProgress, a liberal blog, published selections from a mid-1990s sermon in which Giglio condemned homosexuality as a sin and rallied against the “homosexual movement.” Giglio also supported “ex-gay therapy" in the sermon.
“[The homosexual] 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 said in the sermon.
“People aren’t born gay – but even if they are, it’s still a choice like giving into alcoholism, addiction and overeating,” he added later.
The revelation of the Atlanta-area pastor’s anti-LGBT comments quickly led to widespread outrage among gays and progressives online, with a “We The People” White House petition against Giglio speaking gaining 23,000 signatures in less than a day.
In light of the backlash, Giglio announced Thursday that he would voluntarily step down from performing the benediction. Though he said he has not focused his ministry on LGBT issues in more than 15 years, he feels it would be best to withdraw in light of the controversy.
“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 told ThinkProgress. “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.”
In a response to the uproar, White House officials said they were not aware of the past comments. According to the White House, Giglio was chosen for his efforts in fighting human trafficking.
“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,” a spokesperson for the Inaugural Committee said in a statement. “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.”
The Inaugural Committee has not yet made an announcement on a replacement pastor.