Pastor Louie Giglio's withdrawal from President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony has left Christians lamenting over what they see as a new era of religious intolerance.
More specifically, anyone who holds the view that homosexuality is a sin is being forced out of the public square.
Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist theologian, put it this way: "When it is now impossible for one who holds to the catholic Christian view of marriage and the gospel to pray at a public event, we now have a de facto established state church.
"Just as the pre-constitutional Anglican and congregational churches required a license to preach in order to exclude Baptists, the new state church requires a 'license' of embracing sexual liberation in all its forms."
Giglio, founder of the Passion conferences and Passion City Church in Roswell, Ga., had been invited to deliver the benediction during Obama's inauguration ceremony on Jan. 21. He accepted the invitation and told The Christian Post earlier this week that he was honored to lead the nation in prayer.
But the pastor began to face criticism when the liberal blog Think Progress pointed to an "anti-gay" sermon Giglio delivered almost 20 years ago. In that sermon, Giglio affirms homosexuality as a sin, says Christians must respond to the "aggressive" homosexual agenda, and stresses that all are sinners and in need of the healing power of Jesus.
Gay activists quickly labeled the pastor as a bigot and denounced his participation in the presidential inauguration. Just a day later, Giglio announced that he would pull out, saying his participation "will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration."
He stressed on Thursday that his passion is to love people and point them to Jesus. At the same time, he added that "God's words trump all opinions, including mine."
The issue of homosexuality, he acknowledged, "is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate."
"However, individuals' rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve," Giglio said.
Echoing that sentiment, Moore is calling on Christians to "insist that the President stand up to his 'base' and articulate a vision of a healthy pluralism in the public square."
Obama, who now believes same-sex couples should be able to get married, has been described as the most pro-gay president in U.S. history.
Addie Whisenant of the Presidential Inaugural Committee said they were not aware of Giglio's past comments and that they would find a replacement whose "beliefs reflect this administration's vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins pointed out that Obama shouldn't have been surprised in the first place that an evangelical pastor held a biblical view on homosexuality.
"This is another example of intolerance from the Obama administration toward those who hold to biblical views on sexuality," he said in response to Giglio's withdrawal. "Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox churches all actively proclaim that sexual intimacy within the marriage of one man and one woman is the only biblically-sanctioned human sexual behavior. Are the scores of millions of Americans who affirm these teachings no longer welcome at the inauguration of our president?"
The Presidential Inaugural Committee said one of the biggest reasons they asked Giglio to deliver the benediction was because of his leadership in combating human trafficking.
Giglio has raised awareness and millions of dollars during Passion conferences to combat modern-day slavery.
But his record on compassion was brushed off over a mid-1990s sermon, Perkins lamented.
"What is shocking is the intolerance of the Obama team that put such a high priority on forced acceptance of homosexuality that they totally disregard Pastor Giglio's life work combating human trafficking," the FRC head commented. "What we are seeing is the inauguration of a new era of religious intolerance in America."
The following are comments by other Christian leaders in response to the Giglio controversy:
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: "The imbroglio over Louie Giglio is the clearest evidence of the new Moral McCarthyism of our sexually 'tolerant' age ... If you are a Christian, get ready for the question you will now undoubtedly face: 'Do you now or have you ever believed that homosexuality is a sin?' There is nowhere to hide."
Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research: "This Louie Giglio Moment, and the Chick-Fil-A moment that preceded it, and the Rick Warren moment which preceded that, raise the question: Where do people of faith with long-standing traditional religious/scriptural convictions go from here?"
John Piper, Reformed theologian and best-selling author: "When Louie Giglio is called an 'unrepentant bigot' (http://dsr.gd/13ltCsv ), the word morphs from truth into a tantrum."