Pastor Louie Giglio and the Chill Wind of Correctness

(image courtesy of

Considering the wide media attention accompanying the announcement that laywoman Myrlie Evers-Williams and Atlanta-based preacher Louie Giglio would offer prayers at President Obama’s upcoming inaugural, Giglio’s withdrawal from the podium just two days later garnered little notice outside of Evangelical circles, but it is a story that deserves some attention. So, I’m talking about it over at First Things:

For Pastor Louie Giglio, a frequent visitor to the Obama White House in 2012, an invitation to pray the Inaugural benediction meant a spotlight on his efforts to end global human trafficking, an issue which deserves greater awareness. But it seemed some sermons of his from the 1990s were problematic; they suggested that there was a sinful element to homosexual behavior, and—even worse, by some measures—that Jesus could turn a gay man straight.

Once that information was thrown into social media, Giglio, perhaps in a move meant to protect both the president and his own current efforts, quickly managed a warm and graceful exit. . .

The president should be grateful for that exit; it was so deft a dive that it made barely a splash outside the Evangelical sphere, but the fact that he had to dive at all, and the subsequent apparatchikian remarks of the Inaugural Committee spokesperson should make make everyone clutch their shawls a bit tighter against the chill:

[The administration's vision entails] Inclusion and acceptance for all Americans, except those unreasonable folk who insist upon making a distinction between “acceptance” and “approval,” or who believe that the definition of marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years is still relevant. Those Americans, even if they do great things for the poor, and work to end human slavery in the 21st century–like Pastor Giglio and, for that matter, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—are not included in “this administration’s vision.”

A vision, it must be remembered, that is just about eight-months old and involved a presidential “evolution over time” that will not be permitted to anyone else. The president’s May 2012 epiphany was apparently a messianic one, which would be for all the people, and those straggling or haggling over issues of sin and natural law are meant to either get with the program or feel a chill wind that will only blow harder the longer they remain outside.

But that’s not what really bothered me enough to get me writing about this story. To find out what that is, you’ll have to read the rest, here.

It boils down, once again, to that soft tyranny that’s really screwing us up.

From the Evangelical side of Patheos, Tim Dalrymple gets creative and imagines the sort of response he’d love to see from President Obama.

UPDATED: Apparently, having a right to express one’s opinions without fear of reprisal is simply not permitted, or seriously defended as a “right”, anymore in Britain, too. A most illiberal sort of liberalism. My parents wouldn’t recognize it. I don’t.

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Truth

    “Inclusion and acceptance for all Americans, except those unreasonable folk who insist upon making a distinction between “acceptance” and “approval,” or who believe that the definition of marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years is still relevant.”

    Does Scalia have any evidence that Giglio was attacked for his position on marriage? Or that he ‘accepts’ gay people? He couldn’t even be bothered to condemn the Georgia law criminalizing gay people – and I am supposed to think that he is the victim here?

    [You can do your own research on Giglio, but I think you'll find that his "evolved" take on homosexual persons falls amid the "hate the sin love the sinner" idea. The point of this article is to ask a very important question: are people allowed to think what they think and believe what they believe, anymore, in America or must they kowtow to the zeitgeist or pay the price. The Inaugural Committee statement made it clear that Giglio was unwelcome because he had not "evolved" as much as the president on this issue. You can dislike someone for their opinions and their positions -- that's perfectly fair, because YOU are also entitled to your opinions and positions. You cannot eliminate them from the public arena for those opinions and positions, at least you can't and call yourself a liberal who believes in freedom. The next step after this is to disemploy people and marginalize them. As I say in the FT piece, that is a social overcorrection. Treating people who disagree with you the way you do not want yourself (or your "interest group") to be treated makes you no better than the "bigots" you want to punish. That's the point of the article, not gayness. "I was a victim so now I must make you a victim" is stupid and destructive. -admin]

  • DeLynn

    Elizabeth, thank you for writing about this. I loved what Al Mohler wrote in his post:
    “In other words, a Christian pastor has been effectively disinvited from delivering an inaugural prayer because he believes and teaches Christian truth.”

    Of course, despite this change in plans, President Obama will put his hand on not one but two Bibles when he takes the oath of office. Could one be more hypocritical?

    Louie wrote a blog post to his church family about this incident: Change of Plans.

    [The president's use of not one but two bibles is not about what is contained within them but the message of the props. I'll be writing more about that, later. It will be interesting to watch the press--normally not so comfortable with bible-props--gush over the use of the two. -admin]

  • Manny

    I’ve never believed and still don’t that Obama was ever a Christian (and no, he’s not a muslim either) and I don’t believe he ever “evolved” on the gay marriage issue. He was for gay marriage when he was in the state senate and then against it when he ran for president, and now has evolved? Hahaha, the joke is on all of us, or at least on those that voted for him that holds their faith seriously. Political expediency to get elected was the name of the game and now the real ideologue can fully bloosom.

    “Are people allowed to think what they think and believe what they believe, anymore, in America or must they kowtow to the zeitgeist or pay the price?”

    Yes, most definitely they must kowtow. There is nothing as ill-liberal as actual Liberals. Does Obama have any sensitivity toward religion? I don’t think so. As far as I can see, he’s the first president to intentionally shatter the freedom of religion amendment through the HSS mandate. Why does anyone think that now that he’s free from re-election that he’s not going to push for further squashing of religious thought? He’s actually getting away with over riding the constitution; killing free religious thought is a cakewalk for him.

  • Adam

    One concern I have is that we need a clear, unified response as to why it’s wrong for someone to be excluded from a public function over thoughts and opinions, but not wrong in other cases. In other words: we Catholics exclude people too based on their beliefs and positions. I don’t think we’re wrong in doing so–quite the contrary–but we need to be prepared for cries of hypocrisy when we get upset that conservatives are blackballed from the public sphere.

    Case in point: I attended Villanova in the late 90s. One of our more notorious uproars occurred when author Anna Quindlen was invited and then disinvited from acting as the 1999 commencement speaker. I guess the committe invited her without checking whether she conformed to Catholic principles–turned out she was a NARAL board memebr (I think). The students and alumni launched an uproar, and she was disinvited, but a bad taste was left in everyone’s mouths. The faithful thought that the school exerised a grievous moral error–corrected though it was–while others thought that the school was being a bunch of intolerant fascists. (Quindlen later published her intended speech elsewhere–”See what I was prohibited from saying?”) Years after the fact, I’d like to chalk it up to carelessness–the graduation committee didn’t vet invitees against Catholic moral teaching.

    I think that the distinction would be that a Catholic school is a private religious entity which needs to conform to its own rules and moral guidelines, but the government is for the public and needs to be all-inclusive, so considerations of belief systems shouldn’t be a factor. But then, is there a common-sense upper limit? If Giglio advocated that a man should have a right to beat his wife, I think we’d all agree that he shouldn’t be invited to give the invocation.

    I guess I’m looking for clarity on the guiding moral principle. When is it OK to exclude someone over their beliefs? Is it purely a public/private distinction? What’s the distinction between a Catholic excluding someone based on their moral beliefs and a secular person excluding a Catholic based on theirs? I fear that the world won’t credibly accept a response of “we’re right and they’re not.”

    [Hey, I have always said "let everyone talk." I supported Obama speaking at Notre Dame, even though he didn't mean what he said about conscience being sacred...the answer to creating a better word is more talk and more talk, not silencing.-admin]

  • Manny

    @Adam, you said:
    “I think that the distinction would be that a Catholic school is a private religious entity which needs to conform to its own rules and moral guidelines, but the government is for the public and needs to be all-inclusive, so considerations of belief systems shouldn’t be a factor.”

    So why would the pro-gay marriage position be the inclusive position? For thousands of years the it was common sense (and still is) that marriage was between people of opposite genders, even in cultures that tolerated homosexuality. It doesn’t even have to do with religion. In fact one of the organizers of the anti-gay marriage march in Paris the other day was an atheist. I don’t find the pro-gay marriage position inclusive. I can tell you it excludes my views on what marriage should be.

  • DeLynn

    Indeed! The Bibles are props for sure. I believe we knew that ahead of this issue with Giglio—this has further reinforced those thoughts. I will look forward to reading what you write.

  • Adam


    I don’t think that’s what I was getting at. I would think that, if a government entity’s position is broad non-discrimination, then it needs to be equally accepting of people who are pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage. Or maybe “equally accepting” isn’t the proper term. On First Amendment grounds, the rule would be the avoidance of “viewpoint discrimination.”

    My question wasn’t really one on what the government’s philosophy would be, though. I was asking how Catholics can defend the inevitable charge of hypocrisy on the issue of viewpoint discrimination.

  • Jay

    I find it curious that you see the Louie Giglio case as abridging “a right to express one’s opinions without fear of reprisal.” I do not know where you find such a right in the Constitution or even in common sense. It is certainly not a right that is extended to liberals by conservatives and certainly not by the Roman Catholic hierarchy to those who disagree with their policies.

    You seem to think that free speech means consequence-free speech. Am I not allowed to say that I find Louie Giglio’s sermon offensive and that I think he is not an appropriate speaker at the President’s Inauguration? Pastor Giglio is not punished for his sermon or his beliefs. He is merely not going to speak at an event that many of the people who are now angry at the withdrawal of the invitation had previously criticized him for accepting.

    One is free in this country to say whatever one wants. However, that applies to everyone. Pastor Giglio is free to say that homosexuals are “malfunctions” who are going to hell. He is free to invoke the Levitical passage that says that homosexuals should be executed. He is free to endorse reparative therapy for homosexuals. No one is stopping him from saying those things (though he claims that he has not said them recently).

    However, I and others are free to say that those things amount to spiritual terrorism and that they are bigoted things to say.

    On the other hand, we have read about teachers–and even janitors–in Catholic schools being fired for saying they disagreed with the Catholic position on same-sex marriage. We have read about Catholic choir masters who have been fired for marrying their same-sex partner. Etc.

    The complaint in your article is simply another attempt to present conservatives as victims. The irony, of course, is that what you are really complaining about is that the people you have victimized in all sorts of ways are not exercising their own free speech.

    [You should try waiting a bit for moderation before leaving multiple comments.

    I'm sure you can make a fine distinction between a government and a church, right? A democratic government is supposed to protect the right of people to express themselves freely without fear of discrimination in the workplace, etc. A church, of course, is not a democratic government, and the Catholic church has never in any way shape or form resembled a democracy or claimed to be one. Membership in the church is voluntary, and people are free to leave the church if its teachings are not amenable to them, or to stay and do battle, if they want, but the fact remains: the church is not a democracy. If you claim membership for yourself there is an expectation that you live within its teachings, and that's pretty reasonable. As to the rest of it (and I'm not going to respond point by point b/c I have a busy day before me) let me ask you this: unless one is stagnant or unpardonably dull, one does not remain the same person in 2013 that he/she was in 1995. I know I am not the same person I was. Do you think if you applied for a job today, something you said 15 years ago should be the thing that defines you at this moment, and all the good you're doing today should be discounted? That's what is at the crux of this issue. We're reaching the point -- and it's a totalitarian, nasty point, indeed -- where people who can be proved to have (sometime in their past) expressed a thought outside the current thinking/zeitgeist, are to be shunted aside and given no considerations; because of past and/or present THINKING and the holding of a "incorrect" opinion their opportunities are to be materially threatened. Ideas that a person might be "brought along" over time, or that a person might even "evolve" as Obama did are put aside. Evolution, it seems, has now stopped. These are not people advocating the slaughter of babies, or the blowing up of bridges, btw. They're just people who have a different conscience and value system. If you're not chilled to understand that in this country it is becoming a precarious thing to have a religious conscience, then this conversation can't go anywhere at all. That is the point of this post and picayune points of rhetoric and semantics won't matter. -admin]

  • Jay

    I do know the difference between a church and a government. The Inauguration, by the way, is supported by private donations, and it is a quasi-political event. One does not have a RIGHT to be included on the Inaugural program. I suspect that if Romney had been elected President and, in a gesture of inclusiveness, he had asked Bishop Gene Robinson, for example, to give a benediction, there would have a firestorm of outrage from conservatives, claiming that Robinson was an utterly inappropriate choice.

    Yes, Pastor Giglio’s sermon was written a long time ago (though it has been around on various websites all these years–it is not as though it was hidden in an attic), and he may have evolved in the interim. He could have recanted the sermon or at least said that he no longer believed what he said 15 years ago. But he did not do so. He said only that he had not preached about the topic since then. If he has evolved, he certainly has not said so.

    The kind of rhetoric Giglio used in his sermon is hateful. He may not have advocated the blowing up of bridges, but his brand of spiritual terrorism (if you don’t do what I say or believe what I believe, you will go to hell) leads people–especially young people–to despair, self-hatred, and sometimes to suicide.