The Rev. Louis Gigilio, who was to deliver the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration, pulled out Thursday after an anti-gay sermon created a firestorm the Presidential Inaugural Committee wanted to swiftly extinguish.
"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," said Addie Whisenant, a spokesperson for the committee.
"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," she said.
Giglio withdrew a day after his name was announced as part of the inauguration ceremonies, telling the White House and the Presidential Inaugural Committee in a statement released Thursday morning that whatever message he offered would be drowned out by his remarks from the 1990s.
"I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms," Giglio said in his statement.
"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. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.
"Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President's invitation. I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.
"Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God's grace and mercy in our time of need."