The Presidential Inaugural Committee claims it knew nothing of a pastor's antigay sermon when it selected him to deliver the benediction at the inauguration, and now that pastor has withdrawn from the program.
ThinkProgress, which was first to uncover the sermon, reports that Louis Giglio in withdrawing didn't disavow the beliefs he laid out in that lengthy lesson from the mid 1990s, when he said being gay is a choice and a sin that merits eternal damnation and that Christianity can help gays can become straight. Instead, Giglio lashed out at those he said are trying to push an "agenda."
"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 said in a statement. "Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ."
This isn't the first time President Obama's selection to deliver an inaugural prayer has come under scrutiny for antigay comments, but it's the first time that scrutiny scuttled the program. Rick Warren was the selection in 2008, which riled LGBT activists because of the pastor's public support for Proposition 8. And Warren has gone on to make further antigay comments, most recently in an interview with Chelsea Clinton for NBC's Rock Center, in which he claimed it would be un-Christian to allow same-sex marriages.
Another difference this time is that the inaugural committee's representatives are pleading ignorance of the pastor's past. After the Warren selection was made, Obama had instead argued for tolerance of differences in beliefs.
"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," said Addie Whisenant of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in a statement.
The committee also made headlines Wednesday for selecting a gay Latino poet, Richard Blanco, to deliver an original poem marking the day, January 21. He will become the fifth and youngest inaugural poet.