Inaugural pastor withdraws as anti-gay remarks surface

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WASHINGTON -- The evangelical pastor chosen to give the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration withdrew from the ceremony Thursday after remarks surfaced that he made two decades ago condemning the gay rights movement.

The Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta said in a statement he withdrew because it was likely that the "prayer I would offer will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration."

Addie Whisenant, a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said the committee had chosen Giglio because of his work to end human trafficking and was "not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments."

The liberal website ThinkProgress posted audio of the sermon Wednesday. In the talk, which the pastor said he gave 15 or 20 years ago, Giglio called same-sex relationships sinful and an abomination. He warned congregants about what he called the "aggressive agenda" for acceptance of the "homosexual lifestyle."

Giglio said Thursday the issue "has not been in the range of my priorities in the past 15 years" but added, "the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve."

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Obama faced a similar uproar in 2009, when he chose prominent pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural benediction as an olive branch to evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican. Warren had compared gay relationships to incest and pedophilia.

-- AP

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