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. Ralph Il

    Very dumb move. This guy represents the greedy, ugly side of American Religion. I wouldn't even want him there.

    December 17, 2008 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  2. Chipster

    For those who are displeased with Obama's plans to unite the country, I have some advice: Grow UP! Haven't we had enough of the divisive policies and exclusionary politics? Our country will never heal if we continue to focus on what divides us instead of what unites us. If you want the country to continue on the destructive downward spiral, it really makes no difference who sits in the Oval Office. The politics of hatred has got to stop or we will self-destruct.

    December 17, 2008 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  3. Larry

    This is the vary best-I was wondering who the liberals and dems were going to vent their attacks at, and on after Bush was gone.It appears you are going to hate each other,good,I was tired of the bashing of republicans and conservatives.You guys really need to learn some tolerance ,you are so bias .

    December 17, 2008 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  4. Michael, Springfield, PA

    It amazes me that the GLBT community is getting upset about the Obama choice for the religious leader who will say the Invocation. I would think they would be more upset that PE Obama hasn't named an GLBT individual to a cabinet position. The reality is the NOBODY remembers who says the Invocation.

    December 17, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  5. GuyInVA

    Independent Fred, yes they did listen to him. "Change." "Hope." "Inspiration." Was there more? Oh, right: "Yes we can!" So you did. Allow me to get with the political program. MIND-LESS-CHANT! MIND-LESS-CHANT! MIND-LESS-CHANT! Seriously, after all I heard (and hope is true) about inclusion, acceptance and unity, I'm amazed that people are so upset.

    December 17, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  6. Souza

    I am outraged that during a time of Gay/Lesbians pursuing equal rights that Obama had little thought of how divisive this choice was. I will not be watching the Presidential inauguration. To those who think we are whining " you have all your constitutional rights" so you have no room to comment.
    There are plenty of Pastors he could have chosen, I guess it is time to open our eyes to whom we have elected.
    Obama staff is just like the rest of the politicians. Make your excuses.

    December 17, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  7. PDX Gal

    Duh Shane, California is showing greater support for marriage equality than it ever did in 2000. Don't suppose they teach you that kind of history in NC, though, huh?

    December 17, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  8. NC Obama supporter

    it is only the invocation people, only the invocation....you are all outraged at obama for this but yet support his choice of having a lesbian serve on his cabinet team?

    this sounds right.....get over it, again a non-issue for this gay man. Obama still has my full support, you can't please everyone, grow up.

    December 17, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  9. PDX Gal

    What the h is an "invocation" anyway? Is it like a "conjuring"?

    So Obama said a nut could handle a supernatural magic trick. Who cares what this actor/performer/conjurer/magician does? He's not touching the economy, health care, the constitution, or energy policy after all....

    Besides, they can't represent EVERYBODY'S faith, right?

    Show of hands- NOW who thinks separation of church and state is a good idea?

    December 17, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  10. Patrick

    This is odd. Obama has never ever said he supports gay marriage but you seem to be surprised that he invited a pastor who speaks against it? Why did the gay community openly support Obama. I honestly think you would have made more progress with McCain. Oh well you continue to drink the Democratic "big tent" Kool-aid and you get what you deserve. There are plenty of gay republicans for a reason.

    December 17, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  11. Food for Thought

    C'mon CNN –play nice:

    "Indeed, lost in the hubbub about Warren, is the fact that the man tasked with overseeing the benediction is a icon within progressive politics. Rev. Joe Lowery, a hero of the civil rights movement and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King famously called out President George W. Bush during Coretta Scott King's funeral. He also is a supporter of same-sex marriage. But he is not garnering the same attention as Warren for his inauguration role.. " –Huffinfton Post

    Sigh. Fair AND Balanced. Remember?

    December 17, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  12. Bill From Buffalo

    Independent Fred: You hit the hammer right on the nail with your comment. Ultra-liberals, like the ultra conservatives, are so intolerant other other citizens "point of views". Thank God we have a centerist president again who will worek for ALL. Fin.. .

    December 17, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  13. Jim from New York

    Thanks Obama for making "reaching across party lines" more than a slogan so far!

    December 17, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  14. Mike in San Antonio

    Amazing...just amazing. Now that President-Elect Obama has not gone lock step into the far left...they hurl the same type of invectives as they do to everyone they hate. It's amazing that people are expected to be tolerant of "their" views while wanting to severely restrict the views of others that don't seen their way...sounds to me like the same shoe for both sides.

    December 17, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  15. wag

    An openly gay man, here.
    Its a prayer for heavens sake, People get over it,
    Yes, I do think that Obama is trying to reach all people.
    Let the man alone.....

    December 17, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  16. Jody Monroe

    Pastor Rick Warren is very wonderful and has divine insight. Gay advocates need to get a grip. They need to know that the world doesn't revolve around them. They need to be willing to accept other points of view, even if they don't agree with them.

    December 17, 2008 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  17. Dana, Florida

    1. I vote for Obama
    2. I am lifelong liberal
    3. I am a lifelong atheist

    And... I am perfectly fine, even applaud this decision by Obama. What's more, I hope he actually follows through and works with Warren for the purpose of fighting poverty and aids for the disadvantaged. I generally disagree with 90 percent of what Evangelicals stand for, but that doesn't mean we can't work together on the elements that move us both. When Obama said he was going to reach across the ail in the spirit of bipartasanship, what did you think he meant? That he'd pull a Bush, talk the talk, and then tell everyone "you are either with me or against me" the day after his innaugeration? That ship has sailed.

    Even though we Democrats have the house, the executive branch, and the majority of the senate, we don't have 60 senate seats and we're not going to get nearly as much done if we don't give a little to the other side. Will he allow Warren to dictate his perception to women's issues and the rights of homosexuals? Of course not. He's just trying to find common ground, and this gesture is an indication that Obama is putting his actions where his mouth is. What a breath of fresh air.

    December 17, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  18. Will

    It's called bi-partisanship. Warren is not the only speaker.

    December 17, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  19. Rick

    I am appalled at this choice. I am so tired of politicians promising change and the old addage proves true.. "the more things change, the more they remain the same."

    December 17, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  20. George Ennis, Toronto, Canada

    Well the GLBT community has been put on notice. Thanks for your votes, time and money during the election. Your reward is to have someone like Warren given such prominence and legitimacy as a spokes person for the religious right. Yes there is a delicious irony that one of the leaders who oppresses the GLBT community and did not support Obama gets to move to the front of the line. Ok Ok we will let you have a little band in the parade to placate those crazy activists demanding equal rights.

    Ok time for the GLBT community to regroup for 2012. Forget supporting or voting for any presidential candidate (including Obama) and just focus on local, state and congressional elections. I am sure the time, money and the millions of votes that the GLBT community delivered to Obama are not important in the political calculations that went into the selection of Warren. By the way all of you who spent time campaigning for Obama instead of supporting the defeat of Proposition 8 in California probably feel pretty stupid now!

    Hey maybe Obama will reach out to members of the Aryan nation and neo-nazi parties? I thought not. I wonder why? Oh thats right you cannot discriminate against Blacks, Jews, Moslems their rights are not negotiable but the GLBT community is fair game.

    The GLBT community needs to understand this choice? Hmm interesting so I am supposed to show understanding to those that seek to deprive me of my civil rights and incite homophobia?
    As a gay man I guess I am not that good a Christian...but hey neither is Warren.

    December 17, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  21. Brian in VA

    some of you are lost.

    December 17, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  22. Tempered

    That's awful. Boo Obama, for making a choice that directly contradicts what the vast majority of your supporters want to have set the tone for your inauguration! *We're* the ones who worked so hard to get you elected, giving it heart and soul, so why are you throwing a bone to the ultra conservative types who think like Palin? Count me as disappointed. I know you're trying to be the epitome of fair-mindedness, but your inauguration is supposed to be a celebration of OUR views over the 8 years of Bush views that have been inflicted on us most painfully, to the visible detriment of the country.

    I believe in you though. Perhaps you will have Rick Warren address the commonalities between the conservatives and the rest of us. That would be nice, to hear how we have to come together to defeat poverty, hunger, and AIDS. Here's hoping. But if he (Warren) so much as breathes a word about the sins of homosexuality or equating a woman's right to choose with the Holocaust, then he's gonna find a bunch of shoes tossed his way.

    December 17, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  23. AVR

    Can somebody please tell me what Minister would have been considered acceptable? Obama is a Christain, and wanted a minister HE KNEW to give the prayer.

    Can anyone protesting his decision please name 5 Christain ministers that personally share your belief on Gay Marriage?

    The sad part is that you guys are fighting the wrong fight. You should be arguing that religious belief should not be allowed to be written into the constitution. No one can make a case against Gay Marriage without referring to their values which are derived fromt their religious beliefs.

    You should argue that the only reason a person or group should be restricted from a right afforded to the majority is if that restriction is in society's best interest. You should force the opponents of Gay Marriage to show tangible proof of the "damage" they claim it causes.

    This is the easiest arguement to win, simply because your opponent has no defense not based on religion.

    December 17, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  24. kelli

    Since it's tradition to have an invocation given, and since it's tradition to have it given by someone qualified (a minister), and since Obama believes in God (as Rev. Wright can attest) and since it's HIS invocation, shouldn't he be allowed to chose whom he will? If you've got to up in front of Jehovah and swear to a thing, such as getting married (regardless of who to, but since God doesn't dig gay people that might be kind of wrath-incurring), wouldn't you want to pick who did it? (I chose a presbyterian minister, although I'm not presbyterian) Has anyone with a radical opinion ever watched West Wing? I'mnot too politically savvy, but I haven't a problem with a single pick (except a personal problem here and there) because he's a smart guy (which is why we voted for him, not for who he likes, right?) and he is packing a powerhouse and Warren, like someone said, isn't up for Religious minister! lmao

    December 17, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  25. Jim

    He is going to say a prayer. That's it. What is the big deal? I figured the atheists would have more beef with this then the gay/lesbian movement. Pick your battles wisely, this isn't anything that won't be forgotten a week after it happens.

    December 17, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
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