Defending what the Bible teaches about homosexuality can often lead to public condemnation from gay activists. In recent years especially, Christians have been ridiculed and called bigots for their beliefs. Here are five well-known Christian leaders who have been targeted for their beliefs.
When President Barack Obama invited Rick Warren, head pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California and author of the best-selling A Purpose Driven Life, to deliver the invocation at his 2009 inauguration, gay rights activists were furious. About 100 protesters demonstrated outside Warren's church the Sunday before the inauguration.
"There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kathryn Kolbert, then-president of People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, told CNN. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical."
Obama, who opposed gay marriage at the time, defended his decision saying the inauguration will feature "a wide range of viewpoints ... and that's how it should be, because that's what America is about."
The same controversy arose after Obama was re-elected. Louie Giglio, pastor at Passion City Church in Roswell, Ga., was chosen to deliver the benediction for Obama's 2012 Inauguration. This time, though, Giglio withdrew from the ceremony rather than take the heat, and Obama did not rush to his defense as he did for Warren.
Passionate about the issue of modern slavery, Giglio had not even spoken publicly about homosexuality in many years. Some activists, though, discovered a 20-year-old audio of Giglio preaching about what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. He said that Scripture clearly indicates that homosexuality is a sin and he encouraged the congregation to "lovingly but firmly respond to the aggressive agenda of, not all, but of many in the homosexual community."
Rather that defend himself against the charges that he is "anti-gay," Giglio penned a letter to Obama asking to be removed from the program.
"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," Giglio wrote.
The Christian Post reported at the time that Obama may have disagreed with the Inaugural Committee's handling of the Giglio controversy.
After successfully shaming Giglio into withdrawing, gay activists tried again when evangelist Greg Laurie was invited to participate in the National Day of Prayer.
Human Rights Campaign and OutServe-SLDN asked Pentagon officials to remove Laurie, founder of Harvest Crusades and the lead pastor at Harvest churches in Riverside and Orange County, Calif., for "his blatantly anti-LGBT message."
"I won't back down," Laurie exclaimed, quoting a Tom Petty song.
"They do not want me to pray. They describe me as 'homophobic' and so forth. How can you deal with such a situation? We're in a time in our country now where I'm attacked because I believe what the Bible teaches," Laurie added.
Laurie participated in the May 2 event, praying, "Lord, we need Your help in America. In recent days, we have done our best to remove Your Word and Your counsel from our courtrooms, classrooms and culture. It seems, as President Lincoln once said, that we have 'forgotten God.' But Lord, You have not forgotten us! You can bless and help and revive our country again."
Longtime evangelical left leader Jim Wallis has been frequently criticized by gay activists for his positions on homosexuality. In 2011, Sojourners, an advocacy organization founded by Wallis, declined to run an ad on its website sponsored by Believe Out Loud, a pro-gay Christian group.
Many activists have also complained about Wallis' opposition to gay marriage, even though he supported civil unions, opposed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving in the military, and participated in anti-bullying campaigns. Recently, though, Wallis announced he changed his position and now supports gay marriage.
That has not ended the condemnation Wallis receives from his fellow progressives, though. Just last week, Wallis was criticized for warning that immigration reform could be derailed if liberals insist on including benefits for gay partners.
AmericaBlog accused Wallis of stabbing gays in the back and implied that working with conservatives, such as Richard Land, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and president-elect of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, is akin to working with the Ku Klux Klan.
Pro-gay marriage activists have also targeted megachurch pastor and televangelist Joel Osteen. Unlike the above examples, though, the interactions have been mostly affable.
Osteen's preaching tends to focus on a positive message. Some have described him as a purveyor of "prosperity theology," a charge he denies. He has also been criticized for "shallow" and "superficial" theology. Perhaps because of this, many in the media often seem surprised that he continues to defend traditional marriage, a topic he is asked about in almost every interview.
"When I've come back to the Scripture, as much as I am for everybody, I don't see same-sex [marriage] in the Scripture," Osteen said in a March interview on CNN.
In 2008, a group of 30 pro-gay Christians representing at least five different groups traveled to Lakewood Church in Houston to meet with Osteen. They were led by Jay Bakker, son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. They wanted to convince Osteen that homosexuality is not a sin.
After the meeting, a spokesperson for Lakewood Church told The Christian Post, "it was a very cordial, very nice meeting. But ultimately through our conversations, we continued to disagree with Soulforce and Jay's position."