Two days after he was selected to deliver the benediction at the presidential inaugural celebration and one day after a firestorm erupted over anti-gay comments he made in the past, the Rev. Louie Giglio has been removed from the program roster.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee, the coordinating body responsible for choosing participants to speak at and perform during the Jan. 21 ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama, said it was unaware of Giglio’s remarks at the time of his selection.
“They don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural,” said PIC spokeswoman Addie Whisenant in a statement on Thursday. “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.”
Tuesday’s announcement of the Giglio pick did cite his work in fighting human trafficking, as well as his commitment to mobilizing young people around spirituality-driven human rights missions.
On Wednesday, however, Think Progress — the blog of the progressive think tank Center for American Progress — reported that Giglio had delivered a sermon in the mid-1990s called “In Search of a Standard — the Christian Response to Homosexuality.”
The 54-minute address, available on a website repository of “Christian discipleship training resources,” advocates for psychiatric treatment for gays and lesbians and generally calls for them to renounce homosexuality, through religion or otherwise.
There was considerable criticism in 2009 over the selection of evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver Obama’s first inaugural invocation. Concerns were primarily related to Warren’s opposition to gay marriage, but at that time Obama had not yet reversed his stance to embrace same-sex unions.
Giglio’s participation, in light of his past remarks, would also have created tension at this year’s celebration because of his pairing with the pick for inaugural poet, Richard Blanco. In addition to being the youngest and the first Latino to serve in the role, Blanco is also being touted by PIC as the first gay man to hold the distinction.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.