US pastor drops out of Obama inauguration over anti-gay sermon



Washington: A US pastor, who was selected earlier to give the benediction at the January 21 inauguration of US President Barack Obama, has withdrawn from the ceremony after a sermon he gave way back in the 1990s, seen as anti-gay, resurfaced.

"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," Rev Louie Giglio, said in a message to White House, informing his decision to withdraw from the inaugural ceremony.

"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," he said, a day after the Presidential Inauguration had announced his name for benediction and that of Mrs Myrlie Evers-Williams to deliver the invocation. Obama himself was involved in their selection.

"Vice President Biden and I are honoured that Myrlie Evers-Williams and Rev Louie Giglio will participate in the Inaugural ceremony," Obama had said.

"Their voices have inspired many people across this great nation within the faith community and beyond. Their careers reflect the ideals that the Vice President and I continue to pursue for all Americans - justice, equality, and opportunity," he said.

However, a news website digged out the anti-gay sermon of Giglio 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 would not like the focus of the inauguration be shifted to another issue.

"As a pastor, my mission is to love people, and lead them well, while lifting up the name of Jesus above anything else. I'm confident that anyone who knows me or has listened to the multitude of messages I have given in the last decade would most likely conclude that I am not easily characterised as being opposed to people - any people.

"Rather, I am constantly seeking to understand where all people are coming from and how to best serve them as I point them to Jesus," Giglio said.

"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," he said in his message to the White House.

PTI