December 17th, 2008
07:12 PM ET
6 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. bigjoerice.minnesota

    As one of the growing number of atheists in this country who've had it with this religious clap trap being rammed down our collective throats by whichever religious sect has the bully pulpit today – I say who needs an invocation anyway and how much of my taxpayer dollars are being used to accomplish it so I can demand a rebate!

    December 17, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  2. Captain John

    Terry, you misrepresent Warren's position.

    Many people, Hitler for one, fail to fulfill their mission.

    December 17, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  3. Paul

    As a gay American I voted for McCain.
    The man speaks the truth.
    OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF HIS MOUTH.
    With Obama now all you kool aid drinkers know

    December 17, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  4. Lake Forest

    I can't believe all these negative comments about Warren. If you came to his church and actually heard what he had to say and what his church was doing you would like him. Secondly if Obama had picked Billy Grahm for example how is Bill's Grahms ideals and principals about abortion and gay marriage any different. Or how about Joel Olstead or any of these other high profile pastors. I don't know any one of them who is gay marriage. But you know its his own personal beleifs and Warren doesn't cram his beliefs down your throat either. Warren is a strong advocate for helping the poor and people with HIV and AIDS. I don't understand why people are so threatend by this choice to lead a prayer at the innaguration.

    December 17, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  5. Frank from CA

    Wow, if the "seeker-friendly" Saddleback Church pastor is viewed in this fashion, I can scarely imagine how anything remotely near a conservative theologian would have been viewed. Regardless, President-elect Obama is to be congratulated for his efforts at change. While I did not personally support him, he certainly deserves our support in these difficult times.

    December 17, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  6. Aldo

    Ok people, here are my thoughts.

    First, I am a gay American. I was (and still am) vehemently opposed to Prop 8 and the ban on same-sex marriage that was forced on California and us, LGBT living there. I strongly believe in rights for all, and am VERY resentful towards right-wing conservative religious groups that have exerted their influence on politics.

    When I first read of Obama's choice, I was apalled.

    However, the more I thought about it, the more I arrived at this conclusion: and that is that Obama is simply trying to involve all those people who make up this country as a part of his inauguration. Of course, I am saddened that our country still has religious, homophobic, and extremely bigoted individuals, but nevertheless, they are a part of American society as much as we all are.

    When Obama won the presidency, he stated that he will be president to all, both those who voted for him, and those who didn't. People like Warren are part of that crowd and, hence, cannot be completely disregarded.

    Of course, that's not to say that I am still a bit uncomfortable at the idea of Warren delivering the invocation but, for Obama's sake (not mine), he will be there so as to give those religious conservatives out there an idea that they too are somehow involved in this historic celebration.

    Of course, I do not believe that simply because Warren was invited that Obama is anti-LGBT. In the long run, it is Obama who will sign law into legislation, not Warren.

    And while small, Obama has invited the first all-gay marching band to perform at his wedding (that is just more evidence to show that Obama is trying to be inclusive to all).

    Having said this, I want to tell all my fellow LGBT American's to not jump the gun and think that Obama has abandoned us. It is too early in the game to jump to this conclusion. Now if in his presidency he does align his views about LGBT individuals with Warren's views, then I will feel indignated, hurt, and betrayed.

    December 17, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  7. DC

    Warren didn't make Obama look bad at his debate -Obama clearly had that part under control. It was one of his first debates, so understandable.
    I am not a big Warren or Obama fan, but I think it's great that those who thought they voted in a liberal utopia are being "betrayed" by their savior just because he invited someone who views things differently then them to speak. Yes, it is the old tried and true "progressive" playbook: free speech for everyone unless you disagree with us. America is better off with a centrist Obama who is not as out of touch and juvenile as yourselves.

    December 17, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  8. Ilona Hussein Proud Canadian

    I trust Barack's choice of people to fill his administration 100%

    I cannot understand however, why he would choose someone
    who LIED about McCAIN being in the zone of silence, while
    McCain was still in his hotel room with access to Warren's broadcast.

    McCain trumped Barack at Warrens forum because he was
    able to listen to the questions being asked of Barack!

    Maybe Barack is trying to make a STATEMENT? He is reaching
    out to someone who did not treat him fairly? I have to admit
    that I am puzzled, (not upset) just really puzzled by this pick.

    December 17, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  9. Jay

    Who do I need to vote for to get rid of these unintelligent, hateful christian fascists? I thought with Obama I'd get a break for awhile but here they come again... Come on Obama – We the people who contributed to your campaign and voted for you don't want these people involved in our government anymore!

    December 17, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  10. Carol

    Wow, this is truly shocking. First Obama names an almost entirely male cabinet. Now he stabs the gay community in the back. I guess we should have guessed this would happen based on the way he throws anyone in his life under the bus if they get in his way (Jeremiah Wright, for instance). Obama has earned a lot of detractors with this move. Hope he feels it was worth it.

    December 17, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  11. Randy Tate

    What I am reminded of is the marketing/business term "bait and switch". That's what I feel I have been subjected to. You might as well have kicked me in the stomach, Mr. Obama. Man, the air is out of my balloon.

    Randy Tate

    December 17, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  12. Alex

    Maybe this will help put an end to the lie that Obama represents some radical leftist agenda. The man is barely even a liberal! Just look how loudly the GOP and its Fox/Talk radio noise machine has been praising his mediocre, establishment cabinet picks.

    December 17, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. Franky

    "Jeez, you'd think the liberals at some point would just grow up and stop being outraged by everything. You're REALLY making conservatives look like the cool kids on the block."

    Hey, we are cool! Where do you see the old-school traditions of value and family being so transparent in the world than it is now?? Not only people are getting married more, but they're happy more...well, except counting the divorce rate. Or how about keeping the ol tradition of love and honesty? Well, unless you're 16 years old but the point is that we are cool still, we haven't made an impact like this since the "Knights Templar" was around, LOL!! And look at how that went! Might've taken a long time but I like our odds...

    I have to say, I think it'll be really tough to choose someone who has what some critics are saying, "Mainstream values." That's like having Janet Jackson do the Super Bowl commercial, LOL!! It works either way!

    And Pastor Rick is a good person, he's reasonable and understandable. He's a good fit for it. And look who's talking about being radical when you have 2 women getting married or let alone be in "love." I've been in this game, I know how it works, LOL!! And that's hot and crazy talk by the way...(note: speaking or NEVER speak on behalf of woman, they have their own crazy ideas to choose from)...

    December 17, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  14. Brian in Tennessee

    While it is fair to say that the gay community is a growing segment, it was terribly irresponsible for Kolbert to report that lifestyle as "mainstream."
    The truth of the matter is that by far, the majority of America is still Christian, by all accounts. True enough, the Liberal voice seems to cry the loudest, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but Christianity is far from being done with in this country.
    I personally, applaude President elect Obama for this appointment. It shows that he is willing to go out on a limb and reach outside his own beliefs for the common good. While not an Obama supporter myself, I must admit that this decision has instilled at least a bit of confidence in the man.

    December 17, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. Kim

    Explain how you can be gay and a Christian minister....

    December 17, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  16. serah

    Don't you think the evangelicals who voted for Obama need to be part of the ceremony ? The Obama team has tried to keep a balance such that everyone is represented. But the way i see some people want to be given more than others which will not happen. Evangelicals who will attend are not complaining about the gay groups who will attend. Each one of us has been given a chance to make a choice of what he/she wants out of life and no one can stop you not even pastor Warren.

    December 17, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  17. Zane

    To think that Obama has turned his back on the people who fastly supported him. We've been sacraficed again.

    December 17, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  18. Bob

    Your right, religion is a crock, but a personal relationship with God is not. Look at the facts and you'll find the truth.

    December 17, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. chill out

    Let me get this straight. All of a sudden...just because Obama is reaching out to someoone with whom he disagrees on one issue, he's abandoned his belief in equal rights for gays? Boy, is that a stretch!

    December 17, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  20. Chris

    Obama should know by now to stay away from "ministers" and "pastors." These people are hucksters. It would have been a nice change to drop the invocation routine. The inauguration is a public demonstration of democracy blessed by the citizens in attendance, not the imaginary "father" in the sky.

    December 17, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  21. Polly

    Rick Warren is an idiot. He's right up there with Larry Craig!

    December 17, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  22. Texas Teacher

    I feel outraged... I recall vividly the interview at his church.... I also remember very well the difference in his handling of Obama compared to McCain. I see very little that inclines to me to think that he should even be at the event. I don't have much respect for a man who claims to be a Christian... .not to mention Minister... and behaves as hypocritically as this man did.

    But then again... it is not my decision to be made.... :)
    Perhaps Obama is a more forgiving person than I... so it seems.

    I'm not a Christian... I don't have to turn the other cheek... all I have to do is stay on my path and allow him to walk his own. I leave any judging to be done to the Creator. But I don't have to make him my buddy either. Or trust him at my back either.

    December 17, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  23. Glenn

    I think it was a smart move, we are going to need the help of the powerful radical christian lobby machine to not stand in the way of important legislation that Obama is going to try and get done early in his term.

    December 17, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  24. honestly

    I am worried the 'left wing' of the party is about to fly the coup.

    Lighten up, Obama. We worked our tails off for you (and us), and the 'shock and awe' is taking it's toll.

    And thirdly, where is HOWARD DEAN is this big tent you are creating?????

    December 17, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  25. Ed

    I'm a flaming liberal, but no problem. Obama is doing his dead level best to make a coalition of Americans. Let Obama do his thing. The minister for his inauguration is just a part of his excellent plan.

    December 17, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
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