A Georgia pastor selected to deliver the benediction during President Obama's inauguration has pulled out of the ceremony after comments surfaced in which he described homosexuality as a "sin."
The Rev. Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, was announced as part of the inauguration program on Tuesday.
But the website ThinkProgress subsequently published a lengthy sermon of Giglio's from the '90s.
In the sermon, he purportedly said: "If you look at the counsel of the word of God, Old Testament, New Testament, you come quickly to the conclusion that homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle... homosexuality is not just a sexual preference, homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin according to the word of God. You come to only one conclusion: homosexuality is less than God's best for his creation."
Giglio, under fire by gay-rights groups, announced Thursday he was withdrawing from the Jan. 21 inauguration.
"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 said in a statement to Fox News. "Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past 15 years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ."
After Giglio withdrew, the Presidential Inaugural Committee claimed it was unaware of the pastor's past statements and had originally asked Giglio to deliver the benediction in part because of his work combating human trafficking.
"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," committee spokeswoman Addie Whisenant said in a statement. "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."
Obama earlier this year became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage. His administration also successfully pushed for the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays from serving openly in the military.
In the years-old sermon, Giglio also purportedly criticized the "aggressive agenda" of some in the gay community.
"Underneath this issue is a very powerful and aggressive moment. That movement is not a benevolent movement," he said.