Pastor Louie Giglio’s withdrawal from President Barack Obama’s inauguration has spawned harsh reaction from Christian leaders who are subsequently accusing the White House of bigotry. As reported on Thursday, a controversial sermon about homosexuality that Giglio delivered nearly two decades ago led to intense furor among liberal groups. In the end, the pastor removed himself from Obama’s inaugural festivities. Now, the question remains: Who should replace the embattled faith leader in delivering the official benediction?
But before we open the forum for you to select your own choices for potential replacements, let’s look a bit deeper at the reaction we’re seeing. Yesterday, a press release seemed to indicate that Giglio, a preacher at Atlanta’s Passion City Church, made the decision to remove himself, however some are now charging that he was pressured to step down by the Obama camp. Based on reports of the latter scenario, evangelical leaders are speaking out en force.
The fierce reaction is predicated upon a number of factors. Following the emergence of the controversial sermon in which Giglio called homosexuality sinful, the White House moved to separate itself from the controversy — leading some to question the real motivation behind the withdrawal.
“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,” said Addie Whisenant, the spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. “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.”
Fox News’ Todd Starnes shared some of the reaction coming from prominent evangelical leaders who are outraged in the wake of the dilemma:
The controversy has outraged Christian conservatives like Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Tex.
“It is the ultimate hypocrisy for the Obama administration to pretend it supports diversity and yet denounces anyone who dares to disagree with its radical homosexual agenda,” Jeffress told Fox News. “Rev Giglio’s comments about homosexuality from more than a decade ago were not hateful but represent the historical teachings of the world’s three major religions. Apparently the Obama administration’s definition of tolerance is only broad enough to include its own views.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News that he was shocked at the attacks from homosexual activists.
“What’s becoming ever so clear to those who thought homosexual activists could be appeased is that their ultimate goal is to sanitize the public space of anyone who holds to a biblical view of morality,” Perkins said. “It pulls back the curtain and shows us the true agenda here. It’s not about tolerance. It’s about forced acceptance.”
Others, too, expressed similar emotions and sentiments. On his own blog, in the midst of controversy on Thursday, Giglio addressed the free-speech issue, writing that it’s essential that freedom be preserved in this arena.
“The issue of homosexuality (which a particular message of mine some 20 years ago addressed) is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate,” he wrote. “However, individuals’ rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.”
Huffington Post writer Jaweed Kaleem also addressed Giglio’s departure from the inaugural festivities. He noted that, in the wake of the scandal, “some conservative Christians and evangelicals have began to ask: are they welcome in the public square?”
Kaleem noted that HuffPo had also asked readers whom they would like to see deliver the benediction. Many of the names that were sent into the outlet via social media were progressive in nature: Sr. Simone Campbell (Nuns on the Bus), Rev. Jim Wallis (Sojourners), Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (Episcopal Church) and numerous atheist speakers.
So — we want to ask you who you’d like to see replace Giglio. Are there any faith leaders you believe would be excellent options for Obama’s team to consider? List them in the comments section along with your reason for selecting each name and we’ll let you know in a subsequent article some of the more intriguing selections.