Pence Calls on Obama to Withdraw Pope-Basher’s Appointment to Faith-Based Program

By Fred Lucas | April 9, 2009 | 2:36 PM EDT

Rep. Mike Pence, shown here Feb. 26, 2009 on Capitol Hill, is calling on President Obama to withdraw an appointment he has made to his faith-based program.

( - House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) is callling on President Obama to withdraw his appointment of a gay activist to the White House advisory council on faith-based programs because the activist has recently called Pope Benedict XVI a “discredited leader” and attacked other Christian leaders.

“Appointing a man who has publicly attacked the pope and other religious leaders for their support of traditional marriage is deeply offensive to millions of Americans and the faith-based community he is appointed to serve,” Pence said in a statement. “I call on the president to withdraw this appointment and select a person who can serve the faith-based community with the respect and dignity it deserves.”

On Monday, Obama appointed several new members to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Harry Knox, the director of the faith and religion program at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, was one of the appointments.

In March, Knox told the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco-based gay newspaper: “The Knights of Columbus do a great deal of good in the name of Jesus Christ, but in this particular case, they were foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression.”
He was referring to the Knights of Columbus support for Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that overturned a state Supreme Court decision that had legalized same-sex marriage.  The amendment said that marriage in California would only be between a man and a woman.

The Bay Area Reporter also reported that Knox said that the Knights of Columbus “followed discredited leaders” including the Roman Catholic bishops and Pope Benedict XVI.

Knox also referred to Pope Benedict as: “A pope who literally today said condoms don't help in control of AIDS."

In a brief interview with on Monday, Knox stood by his comments about the pope.

“The pope needs to start telling the truth about condom use,” Knox told “We are eager to help him do that. Until he is willing to do that and able, he’s doing a great deal more harm than good--not just in Africa but around the world. It is endangering people’s lives.”

Knox was also critical of the Rev. Rick Warren after Obama chose Warren to deliver the invocation at the Inauguration, saying Warren’s participation “tainted” the event. Warren is a California megachurch pastor and bestselling author.

On the PBS News Hour in December, Knox said that Warren “has in fact leveraged homophobia to get ahead in his career. … This is the worst possible choice the president could have made. This is a divisive choice. … We said to the president-elect today in very strong language, the strongest we can think of and be respectful of the office, you have really slapped us. And we want you to think about that and think very hard what your actions will be going forward because this very symbolic, early decision has sent the exact wrong message”

Obama announced the establishment of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in early February. It is a continuation of a Bush administration office that makes federal grants available to religious charity groups.
“For years the office of faith-based initiatives has made available taxpayer resources to private faith based organizations who offer critical support to their local communities,” Pence said. “Unfortunately, the president’s recent appointment to his advisory council makes a mockery out of the religious beliefs of countless Americans. This selection furthers the divisive politics the American people have rejected and the president promised to change.”