Former Arkansas Gov. and 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is going after the Obama administration for inviting gay and transgender rights activists to Pope Francis’ welcome ceremony in Washington, D.C., this week, calling the decision “classless.”
Huckabee issued a statement on Monday morning arguing that Obama was turning the pope’s visit to the White House into a “politicized cattle call for gay and pro-abortion activists.” The former Baptist pastor asked, “Why is it that Obama goes to extremes to accommodate Muslim terrorists but shows nothing but disdain for Christians? This is a new low for an administration that will go down as the most anti-Christian in American history.”
His remarks come following a Wall Street Journal report that the Vatican has taken offense that the Obama administration list of invitees to Wednesday’s event include Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Simone Campbell, an activist nun, and Mateo Williamson, a former co-head of the transgender branch of Dignity USA who advocates for equality within the church.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the guest list last week – and if Obama was trying to make a political statement. Earnest, who did not confirm who was on the list, emphasized that up to 15,000 people will be invited to welcome the pope to Washington. “I would warn you against drawing a lot of conclusions about one or two or maybe even three people who may be on the guest list, because there will be 15,000 other people there too,” he said.
Huckabee, who has made “religious freedom” a cornerstone of his campaign and frequently uses impolitic rhetoric on the LGBT movement, also criticized Obama over the weekend for planning to nominate Eric Fanning, an openly gay man, to become secretary of the U.S. Army. In a statement, the ex-governor said Obama’s decision showed he was “more interested in appeasing America’s homosexuals than honoring America’s heroes.”
Pope Francis begins his first visit to the U.S. on Sept. 22 and has plans to stop in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. The pope has parted ways from his predecessors on several issues, including climate change and gay clergy.
In 2013, he asked “who am I to judge” gay people—although he has yet to take any specific action on the matter. And last year, he released an environmental encyclical calling for immediate action on climate change. Last month, he broke from traditional Catholic teachings, declaring the church should do more to embrace those who follow the religion but decide to divorce and then remarry.