WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — Just days after furor surrounding Pastor Louie Giglio’s past comments about homosexuality came to light — and his subsequent withdrawal from the inaugural festivities unfolded — President Barack Obama has officially selected a different faith leader participate in the historic event. The pastor of the Episcopal parish known as “the church of the presidents” will give the benediction at Obama’s upcoming inauguration.
The Rev. Luis Leon of St. John’s Church has been chosen for the honor. He replaces Giglio, an Atlanta-based megachurch who withdrew from the ceremony last week after a sermon he gave years ago surfaced in which he condemned gay relationships.
A Presidential Inaugural Committee spokeswoman, Addie Whisenant, had said that the person chosen to give the prayer would reflect the administration’s beliefs — and it appears that pledge has been honored. The Episcopal Church blesses same-sex relationships and elects bishops who live openly with same-gender partners.
Those who take issue with Leon’s selection should consider one important fact: The faith leader also delivered prayers at the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush, a Republican. Clearly, Leon has appeal within both parties (or this is at least the case when it comes to inaugural selections). It may be the reverend’s connection to St. John’s though, a church that holds historical meaning, that had made him a viable choice for both parties.
Every president since James Madison, including Obama, has attended a service at St. John’s Church, which stands across from the White House on Lafayette Square. Leon is a native of Cuba who came to the United States at age 12.
As stated, Leon’s selection comes after intense controversy following a nearly-20-year-0ld sermon that Giglio, Obama’s original choice for the benediction, once gave. Gay rights groups and progressives, alike, sounded the alarm after the sermon, which was listed on a Christian training web site, went viral and was widely regarded as anti-gay in nature.
The presidential inaugural will be held Monday.