December 17th, 2008
07:12 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama’s choice of evangelical leader sparks outrage

Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church.
Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church.

(CNN) - Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month.

Warren, one of the most powerful religious leaders in the nation, has championed issues such as calling for the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.

But the founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has also adhered to socially conservative stances - including his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights that puts him at odds with many in the Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing.

"[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site Wednesday.

People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren, and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who is "consistent mainstream American values.

"There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kolbert said. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical."

Dobson, a social conservative leader, is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family.

Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama, defended the choice of Warren, saying, "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history."

"The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."

Douglass also noted Obama and Warren agree on several issues including advocating on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged, and people who suffer from HIV/AIDS.

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soundoff (524 Responses)
  1. Shane from NC

    I am so sick and tired of radical liberals whinning EVERYTIME Obama doesn't cater to their every request. Wake up people, one of the most liberal states, California, decidedly voted not to allow gay mariage. This obviously means that "mainstream America" isn't ready for this, so stop crying...it's getting really annoying, really fast.

    December 17, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. MC- Atlanta,GA

    I must say I agree – this is a pathetic Choice for the GLBT community that helped elect Obama.

    December 17, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. Carol

    Any Minister that thinks that gay marriage is compared to sieblings marrying, and old men marrying young children is a poor pick for such an important occasion for President Obama.

    December 17, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  4. Joseph, Los Angeles

    I'm kind of troubled by this. Somewhat speechless; just don't know what to say about it. I like and voted for Obama, but now I'm totally confused about who he really is.

    December 17, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  5. Bill

    Do these left wing wackos think that they are mainstream? Warren's view on gay marriage and abortion are mainstream.

    December 17, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  6. rayster

    Remember that not everyone thinks the same and so chill out and don't turn off support from poeple that see your fight for those rights.
    Obama has plenty of supporters that see things different from you and still walk with you. TOLERANCE is needed then all is possible

    December 17, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  7. Amy from Seattle

    The bloom is coming off of Obama. Is he really a messenger for change? This is not change but coddling the right wingers. Obama ran on the meme for change, but he voted for the FISA bill, he is appointing Hillary Clinton as SOS, he has appointed a team of Clinton loyalists, even Salazar is more in the hip pocket of special interests than environmentalists. Obama is not going to bring any change in the US of A. He will govern from the center right. He is no better than McCain. I voted for him. What choice did I have.

    December 17, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  8. NuggetTX

    Ugh. This man (Warren) does not speak to my Christian faith. He is a faith-based bigot. Period.

    December 17, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  9. cardron

    I am a gay man and a progressive Christian minister. Although I disagree with much of what Warren says on issues such as abortion and gay rights, I think Obama asking him to say the invocation is appropriate.

    We do not have to agree with each other on every single point to work together. We should seek common ground where we can find it. Warren is concerned about AIDS, poverty, and human rights. Can’t progressives work with him and others like him on these issues, even while we disagree about other issues?

    Inclusion doesn’t mean only including some, it means including all who desire to work together for positive change. While Warren and I disagree about what constitutes positive change for sexual minorities, we can still find common ground on other issues. Imagine what our country and our world would be like if we all spent as much time working with each other in those areas where we agree as we do battling each other in those places where we disagree.

    Warren is not a demagogue, nor is he a purveyor of hate. He is a religious leader who calmly and rationally speaks his mind. I for one appreciate his “moderate tone” even when I disagree with his words.

    Obama inviting Warren to offer the invocation shows a desire for unity in spite of differences. It is a clear indication that he sees himself not just as a Democratic president, or as a progressive president, but as President of the entire country. As such, he must speak to the entire country. Warren’s selection shows the President-elect reaching out beyond the typical constituencies of the Democratic Party and embracing all people of good will.

    December 17, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  10. CJ

    It's just one prayer. I don't think he's going to become White House Pastor.

    December 17, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  11. Scott

    Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month."

    Okay...so who did they wanted to deliver the invocation, Rev. Wright or Louis Farrakhan?

    December 17, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. scott p

    The Church and The Military go hand in hand with Neo-Fascism, looks like we have a new Bush with a liberal face!

    December 17, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  13. Red, Red WHINE!!

    Warren is a ego maniac that loves to hear himself spew words of division. He preaches to people who can't think for themselves...he tells them what to think and wonders why people with intelligence don't listen to his rantings as well.

    I agree, it's a bad choice to mix these religious freaks with politics. Religion has NO place in politics. I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch about it, but I think I would have preferred Bush to give the speech instead of Warren.

    December 17, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  14. EBB

    A Crying SHAME. Is there something we can do to STOP IT??!!

    December 17, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  15. Adam from Ohio

    Rick Warren is a piece of dung.

    But the larger issue is, why in the hell does the inauguration feature an invocation?

    December 17, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  16. mark

    Who cares about any of this. I don't have a problem with Warren being there...I have a problem with freaking Obama being there...

    December 17, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  17. rus

    Rick Warren obviously paid either during campaign or during transition period. or Maybe offerred to help during transition period. Obama team will not give anyone access without money. This is all business. Rick Warren will loose lot of his followers without executive access.

    December 17, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  18. No incumbents 2010

    So What?

    December 17, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  19. Mike

    Warren was the best selection Obama has made in his transition. Liberals and gays need to get over themselves and realize that the world does not revolve around them.

    December 17, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  20. Barrett Coleman

    As a gay male, I love the selection! Seriously. So this man does not believe that homosexuals should marry, Many people do! It's a view that many people hold. This thing where anyone who disagrees with any stance shouldnt' have anything to do with Barack Obama is just as closed minded as who these groups condem.

    December 17, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  21. J.P.

    "Warren also sparked outrage among supporters of abortion rights for criticizing those who have said abortion would be 'safe and rare.'"

    Holocaust: 6-11 million dead:
    Verdict: horrible tragedy, inhuman descecration of life and all we hold dear as decent people
    The Take Away Message: Decent people must stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

    Abortion: 50 million dead
    Verdict: "it's a right and a choice."
    The Take-away Message: if you kill on a large enough scale, it merely becomes a statistic.

    December 17, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  22. mk

    Obama has been elected president of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
    Not the Left State or the Right State, or the Religious conservative state.
    He serves ALL of the people. Some of us may not like Warren, but some people do. Are they to be denied a voice because they are different from those who disagree with Warren? Isn't that the very thing we hated about Bush? Isn't this one of the reasons we elected Obama? People better start getting used to to a leader who believes in an equal representation of ALL beliefs. We are so used to being divided by the current administration we have forgotten that we will never all be in favor of the same things but we don't have to be ignored because we have beliefs that may differ from our neighbor. We are ALL Americans.

    December 17, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  23. AndThatsABadThing?

    I love those quotes from the lady – ""consistent mainstream American values" uhhh Gay Marriage is a Mainstream American Value??? Hmmm false.

    "his ideas are radical." – Yes protecting Marriage between a man and woman... very radical...

    Lady you are on the Radical side, there is no American Value or any value in Gay marriage.

    Perhaps you would have been more comfortably with Rosie O'Donnel giving the Prayer... after all she is Mainstream and not Radical at all.

    Just another Wolf trying to call themselves a Sheep. I hope a majority of Americans aren't this stupid. LGBT Movement trying to call themselves Mainstream American Values and that anything otherwise is Radical.

    I hope Mr. Warren freely expresses and prays against those so called Mainstream American Values.

    December 17, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  24. Benn

    Wow. I am more and more surprised by the President-elect every day.

    December 17, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  25. Matthew

    I'm pretty disgusted by this choice and won't be watching as a result.

    December 17, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
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