By Justin Sink
Louis Giglio, a Georgia-based pastor who had been selected to give the benediction at President Obama's inauguration, has dropped out from the program after reports that he gave an anti-gay sermon in the 1990s.
Giglio's decision comes after the liberal blog ThinkProgress unearthed a sermon in which he encouraged Christians to fight homosexuality being "accepted as a norm in our society and ... given full standing as any other lifestyle."
In a statement, Giglio said he was concerned his inaugural prayer would be "dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration."
"Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President's invitation," Giglio said. "I will continue to pray regularly for the president, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day."
Giglio has spearheaded a global campaign to end slavery called 2013 Freedom, and raised $3 million during a four-day event in Atlanta earlier this month.
A spokeswoman for the Inaugural Committee said they were unaware of Giglio's comments about homosexuality at the time of his selection, but said that they did not "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," said Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Addie Whisenant. "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.“
White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about Giglio's participation in the ceremony during Wednesday's press briefing, but said he had not seen the ThinkProgress report.
"I would simply point you to President Obama’s record on LGBT issues as representative of his beliefs and convictions, his policies and where he believes this country is moving and where he hopes to lead it," Carney said.
The White House has come under fire from LGBT organizations in recent weeks after the nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to head the Defense Department. In the 1990s, Hagel described an ambassadorial candidate as being “aggressively gay" while opposing his nomination.
Hagel apologized for that remark last month as opposition began mounting to his nomination.
Giglio's withdrawal from the inauguration was first reported by ABC News.
— This story was updated at 12:15 p.m.