ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl first reported on Twitter that Rev. Louie Giglio of Buckhead's Passion City Church has chosen to remove himself from President Barack Obama's inauguration program. Giglio had been selected to deliver the benediction at the event on Jan. 21.
(Buckhead Patch has reached out to Giglio and will update this report when he responds.)
According to tweets from Karl, who was told by an inaugural source, Giglio "pulled himself out when he realized this was going to be a distraction."
President Barack Obama has come under fire for selecting Giglio, who advocated "ex-gay" therapy and fighting the LGBT movement's "aggressive agenda," according to Think Progress. Members and supporters of the LGBT community do not want Giglio to deliver the benediction and started a White House petition to have him removed.
Giglio issued the following statement Thursday about his decision to withdraw from the inaugural program:
January 10, 2014
I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God's grace and mercy in our time of need.
Presidential Inaugural Committee Spokeswoman Addie Whisenant said the committee chose Giglio for his commitment to ending human trafficking, but were unaware of his past comments when they invited him to deliver the benediction on Jan. 21.
In her statement, Whisenant said: "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. 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."
Obama was criticized for similar reasons for his selection of megachurch pastor Rick Warren, author of the bestseller "Purpose Driven Life," to deliver the invocation at his first inauguration.
Buckhead Patch will continue to update this story as details are made available.
Buckhead Church Pastor to Deliver Benediction at Obama Inauguration