The Rev. Louie Giglio, who has delivered at least one sermon proclaiming that homosexuality must be prayed away, is off the presidential inauguration program. The Atlanta pastor had been scheduled to deliver the benediction on Jan. 21.
Giglio said he removed himself from the program after realizing his selection was distracting from the celebration: "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 15 years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ."
Giglio did not apologize for his past positions on homosexuality or gay civil rights.
A statement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee indicated that the organizers also wanted a change in the program: "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. 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 choice of Giglio had been announced on Jan. 9. Soon after, a petition on the White House website called for Giglio to be removed from the program.
The petition, signed by more than 1,500 people and addressed to the president, stated:
“On January 9th you announced that you had selected Pastor Louie Giglio to give the benediction at your second inaugural. According to Think Progress, Pastor Giglio, like Rick Warren, has delivered sermons urging Christians to fight against LGBT equality. Four years ago Rick Warren was unacceptable for doing that. Today, Giglio is.
“There are many members of the clergy active in the cause of civil rights and who have long been on the front lines of the fight for LGBT equality. As we told your four years ago, selecting a Christian fundamentalist who has a record of anti-gay sermons is offensive and unnecessary.
“Therefore, we call on you to replace Giglio and to select a member of the clergy with a history of supporting LGBT equality to give the benediction at your second inaugural.”
Giglio, in the 1990s, delivered at least one sermon in which he said the “only way out of a homosexual lifestyle ... is through the healing power of Jesus" and “We’ve got to say to the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me … it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.”
Giglio called Christians to challenge the “aggressive agenda” of gay civil rights advocates.
He said, in the sermon, that the equality movement “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.”
In the Jan. 9 news release announcing the initial selection of Giglio to deliver the benediction and Myrlie Evers-Williams to deliver the invocation, the president stated, “Vice President Biden and I are honored that Myrlie Evers-Williams and Rev. Louie Giglio will participate in the Inaugural ceremony. Their voices have inspired many people across this great nation within the faith community and beyond. Their careers reflect the ideals that the Vice President and I continue to pursue for all Americans – justice, equality, and opportunity.”
And Giglio, in the same release, stated, “It is my privilege to have the opportunity to lead our nation in prayer at the upcoming inauguration in Washington, DC. During these days it is essential for our nation to stand together as one. And, as always, it is the right time to humble ourselves before our Maker. May we all look up to our God, from whom we can receive mercy, grace and truth to strengthen our lives, our families and our nation. I am honored to be invited by the President to lead our nation as we look up to God, and as we look ahead to a future that honors and reflects the One who has given us every good and perfect gift.”
Responding to news that Giglio was out, Darlene Nipper of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, "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."
On the Web…
The Rev. Louie Giglio’s sermon: "In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality