Soon after the Rev. Louie Giglio announced he would no longer deliver the benediction at President Obama's second inauguration later this month as to avoid controversy over a past sermon on homosexuality, an inaugural committee spokesperson said the evangelical pastor would be replaced with someone who has pro-homosexual beliefs.
"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," inaugural committee spokeswoman Addie Whisenant said in a statement Thursday.
"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."
The controversy began on Wednesday when Think Progress, a liberal blog, posted a sermon Giglio gave in the mid-1990s explaining how Christians should "lovingly but firmly respond to the aggressive agenda of not all, but of many in the homosexual community."
The post created a firestorm that prompted Giglio to send a letter to the president on Thursday, removing himself from the inauguration ceremony.
A Christian woman in Atlanta who asked not to be identified and who regularly attends Sunday evening services at Passion City Church in Roswell, Ga., says she was disappointed that Giglio removed himself and that his sermons rarely if ever focus on social issues.
"I believe Pastor Giglio is a fine man and his work in the areas of human trafficking has helped millions worldwide. I think he is exactly the type of person we need leading a benediction for our nation and just because he believes that homosexuality is a sin should not disqualify him. I mean, there are millions of Christians who feel the same way while recognizing we should love everyone."
Giglio's letter opened a floodgate of comments from gay rights activists.
In an email to The Christian Post, Gregory T. Angelo of the Liberty Education Forum, an arm of the Log Cabin Republicans, responded to Giglio's announcement.
"While Giglio should be commended for his humanitarian work, his decision to step down was the right thing to do and is a testament to his humility," said Angelo. "Going forward we would welcome an open dialogue with the minister on issues of gay acceptance and love of all of God's children."
Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign offered similar sentiments, saying, "It was the right decision. Participants in the Inaugural festivities should unite rather than divide. Choosing an affirming and fair-minded voice as his replacement would be in keeping with the tone the president wants to set for his Inaugural."
But one question Christians may be asking Obama and his committee is does a person who participates in administration festivities or is appointed by the president to a government position need to share the president's personal beliefs?
Others such as Sarah Posner, author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values, questioned why the committee would select someone like Giglio in the first place.
"One has to wonder why, given the thousands of clergy in the United States Obama couldn't simply pick someone who didn't have a high profile at all, someone who would deliver a pleasing ecumenical prayer, someone who didn't appear to have been picked so that Obama could reach a particular constituency, or whose selection insults another," Posner wrote in Religion Dispatches on Wednesday.
"Although I said I wasn't surprised that a blogger found Giglio delivered an anti-gay sermon, it wouldn't be hard to find a clergyperson who never had."
Penny Nance, who heads up the pro-family group Concerned Women for American, feels the public is seeing the true intent of the Obama administration and that is to profile and segregate Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong and believe what the Bible teaches.
"I don't think this is anything new. This administration has very thoughtfully and carefully weeded out anyone who does not share their views," Nance told The Christian Post. "And their views are the most leftist in U.S. history. It's dangerous and it is unhealthy for any administration not to allow a counterbalance of beliefs."
Nance also pointed out that gay rights groups were constantly calling on President George W. Bush to appoint homosexuals to government positions and now that they have a president who has endorsed same-sex marriage, the reverse is unlikely to happen.
"Does President Obama go through is administration and fire people who do not share his beliefs? I would certainly hope that would never be the case."
Obama was also criticized over choosing Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his first inaugural because of the pastor's evangelical views.
The Obama Inaugural Committee has tapped Richard Blanco, an openly gay poet, to read a poem he has written for the occasion. They have not yet announced a replacement for Giglio.