Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will speak at a national meeting of Catholic business leaders later this month, despite criticism that has led at least two other well-known speakers to drop out of the event over the group’s anti-gay views.
The Legatus Summit will take place at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida, on Jan. 29-31 — the week after Jindal hosts a mass prayer rally with a largely evangelical crowd in LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Actor Gary Sinise and Fox News anchor Bret Baier have canceled their scheduled Legatus appearances, but Jindal, MillerCoors chairman Peter Coors and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is the archbishop of New York, are among the speakers still slated to attend.
“Gov. Jindal looks forward to addressing the summit and speaking about what faith means to him,” Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates Dirmann confirmed to The Advocate on Tuesday.
Attendance to the summit is limited to members of Legatus, a group mostly made up of Catholics who are business executives, and their guests.
Legatus was founded by Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers, more than a decade ago, and the group has a reportedly thriving Baton Rouge chapter. The Advocate was unable to reach local organizers for comment via the group’s website.
GLAAD, a national gay rights organization, has called Legatus a “rabid anti-LGBT organization.”
Last year, Legatus’ magazine featured an article that called homosexuality a “selfish act” and denounced efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
Jindal, who is considering a run for president and describes himself as an “Evangelical Catholic,” is in Europe through Jan. 20. He repeatedly has said in the past that he opposes same-sex marriage.
The governor recently has faced criticism over the prayer rally scheduled at LSU on Jan. 24 and its ties to a different religious group that also has come under fire for positions against same-sex marriage and other gay rights efforts. The American Family Association is the main sponsor of the rally, though organizers have distanced the event from AFA and say the Mississippi-based organization has no control over its speakers or topics.
A group of black religious leaders have organized a separate prayer rally on Southern University’s campus the same day as Jindal’s to focus on issues like Medicaid expansion, which Jindal opposes. Meanwhile, LSU students and others also have planned to protest outside the PMAC.
Bruce Parker, coalition manager for gay rights group Equality Louisiana, praised the counter-events.
“They’re coming together and saying that they are going to respond to hate in a way that is meaningful,” he said.
Parker said he wasn’t familiar with Legatus previously, but he wasn’t surprised by Jindal’s participation — even as others cancel on the group.
“There’s nothing surprising about him taking his hateful run for president on the road,” Parker said.
Sinise, best known for his roles in the movie “Forrest Gump” and TV show “CSI: NY,” and Baier announced their decisions not to participate this week after some gay rights groups raised objections.
In a statement to The Advocate, Sinise said: “For me, faith has been a catalyst for my mission to honor the men and women who serve in our nation’s military. When I accepted the invitation to speak at the Legatus conference on Veterans issues and share my story, I was unaware of the controversy surrounding some of the participants, and their views on personal matters. I don’t want my mission — which is designed to be unifying — to be disrupted by these, or any controversies, and therefore have decided to withdraw.”
Similarly, a FOX News spokesperson said Baier had withdrawn “due to the controversy surrounding some editorial stances in the organization’s magazine.”
“Bret accepted the invitation to speak about his book, his faith, and his son’s congenital heart disease,” the spokesperson said. “He was unaware of these articles or the controversy surrounding them.”
Comedian Bob Newhart pulled out of speaking at the Legatus summit last year.