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Obama's Inauguration: The Bitter Irony Of The Louis Giglio Moment

Daniel Lewin |
January 13, 2013 | 8:52 p.m. PST


Pastor Louis Giglio withdrew from Obama's inauguration schedule. (David Jones, Creative Commons)
Pastor Louis Giglio withdrew from Obama's inauguration schedule. (David Jones, Creative Commons)
Pastor Louis Giglio, who had been scheduled to pray at Obama’s inauguration later this month, announced Thursday that he was withdrawing from the scheduled program in the wake of protests by liberal groups regarding an anti-gay sermon he gave some 15 years ago.

In the letter he sent to the President and posted on his website, he explained, “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.” Many speculated that his withdrawal was involuntary, and that he had been forced out by the Obama Administration. Though this has not been confirmed, it seems likely. Addressing this in his statement, Pastor Giglio went on to state that the “collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.”

He is right, of course. It is critical that he be allowed to hold his own views, and no one is saying otherwise. Such is the beauty of our nation and our First Amendment. However, the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to a prominent national pulpit offered by the president for every viewpoint, and Obama, if he did force Giglio out, had every right to do so. The issue is not a trivial one; it is a fundamental human rights issue (one that Obama “evolved” to understand last year). Obama would not allow a pastor who openly opposed interracial marriages to speak at his inauguration, so why should he let an anti-gay pastor do so?

In the wake of Giglio’s withdrawal, one of the biggest sources of outrage and frustration for the evangelical right is that Pastor Giglio has not, by any means, focused on homosexuality in his life's work. The sermon at the heart of this particular controversy was given 15 years ago, and Giglio does not publicly discuss homosexuality very often. He has in no way renounced the views from that sermon, of course, but he is certainly no Fred Phelps, either. Giglio is most prominent for his laudable work to end slavery and human trafficking throughout the world and this was, in fact, the reason he was initially selected to speak at the inauguration. Giglio’s life mission and his work, argue his supporters, far outweigh any differing views he has with the Obama Administration on one single issue.

His supporters may be right. But I don’t care about the question of who speaks at Obama’s inauguration - but whoever it is, that person is not likely going to start spouting anti-gay rants from the steps of the U.S. Capitol with the President mere yards away. I don’t care about Louis Giglio, who seems like a decent, albeit misguided, fellow who has done a lot of good, but may not necessarily be the best fit for Obama’s inauguration. What I do care about is the very real persecution of LGBT people in this country, often justified by a literal reading of the Old Testament of the Bible. What is most striking about the Louis Giglio brouhaha, more than any free speech concern, is how clearly it exposes the bitter and ugly irony of the stridently anti-gay position of the Evangelical Christian Right.

Pastors like Giglio, who insist on holding antiquated and hateful views regarding homosexuals, justify their prejudice by citing scripture; specifically, a passage in the book of Leviticus:

"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads" (Leviticus 20:13).

Disregarding Jesus’ exhortations to us to love one another above all else, biblical literalists like Giglio insist that every word in the Bible is the true word of God and must be followed to the letter. This is a rather curious position for an anti-slavery crusader to take, wouldn’t you agree? The Bible actually devotes more space to discussing and condoning slavery than it does to condemning homosexuality. Only a few chapters after condoning the death penalty for homosexuals, the book of Leviticus provides guidelines regarding who can and cannot be made a slave:

“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life” (Leviticus 25:44).

This is not the only instance of the Bible taking a disturbingly pro-slavery attitude; far from it. How, then, can an anti-slavery crusader still look his congregation in the eye and instruct it to ignore the Bible’s outdated guidelines on slavery, but continue to treat gays and lesbians as second-class citizens based on an equally outdated guideline regarding homosexuality?

It would seem to be impossible, but somehow Giglio and countless other pastors all over the country (not to mention the entire world) manage to do this regularly. It defies logic. Somewhere, God has got to be getting pissed off - either at Giglio, and every other American for ignoring His will and condemning slavery, or at Giglio and all the other right-wing evangelicals who are arrogantly selectively choosing which passages in the Bible are important enough to follow, and then using those to justify the continued persecution of a substantial portion of His children. Which one do you think it is?


Reach Contributor Daniel Lewin here.



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