(CNSNews.com) – The White House told CNSNews.com on Wednesday that it will not comment on whether President Obama agrees with an appointee to the White House Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships who told a San Francisco-based newspaper catering to the "lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender community" that Pope Benedict XVI is a "discredited leader."
Obama named Harry Knox to the position on the faith-based advisory council last week. Knox is director of the faith and religion program at the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual rights group.
In light of his attack on the pope, Knox's appointment drew criticism from House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who called on Obama to withdraw Knox's appointment. It also drew fire from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Family Research Council, the Rev. Gino Jennings and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The dust up was prompted primarily by the comments Knox made to the Bay Area Reporter, in a story about how Catholic bishops in California and the Knights of Columbus campaigned for the passage of a California state constitutional amendment--Proposition 8--that overturned a state Supreme Court decision mandating same-sex marriage in the state. The amendment said that marriage in California would only be between one man and one woman.
Although it received little coverage in the national media during last year's presidential campaign, Obama wrote a letter last June to the San Francisco-based Alice B. Toklas Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club stating his opposition to Proposition 8. That postion effectively meant Obama favored legal recognition of homosexual marriage in that state.
Obama has also repeatedly stated that he favors the complete repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which protects states from having to recognize same-sex marriages that are contracted in other states--as they would otherwise be compelled to do under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution.
Knox told the Bay Area Reporter that the Knights of Columbus “followed discredited leaders” including the Roman Catholic bishops and Pope Benedict XVI. He referred to Pope Benedict as: “A pope who literally today said condoms don’t help in control of AIDS.”
Knox stood by his comments about the pope last week, telling CNSNews.com, “The pope needs to start telling the truth about condom use … he’s doing a great deal more harm than good--not just in Africa but around the world. It is endangering people’s lives.”
In December, Knox was also at the forefront of criticizing Obama for inviting the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. He said allowing Warran to deliver an invocation at the Inauguration "tainted" the event.
In an April 9 statement, Pence called for Obama to withdraw Knox's appointment.
Last week, CNSNews.com first called then sent written questions to the White House asking, “1) Will the President withdraw the appointment of Mr. Knox, as Congressman Pence has called on him to do? 2) Mr. Knox called the Pope a ‘discredited leader’ in March. He also, in December, said Rick Warren ‘tainted’ the inauguration. Does the President disagree with these statements and if so, does he believe Mr. Knox should apologize?”
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said later that day she would check on getting a response to these questions. But when asked yesterday if the White House had a response to these questions from CNSNews.com, Psaki said, “We don’t have a response to that.”
She added, “You can say we declined to comment.”
In a videotaped November 2004 debate with the Rev. Gino Jennings, pastor of the First Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Philadelphia, Knox said that St. Paul's letter to the Roman's was "not true." In that letter, St. Paul says homosexual behavior is a against the natural law.