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. Obama supporter

    I have to say that ANY Minister, Elder, Pastor or any other member of the clergy SHOULD be against both same sex marriage and abortion. I applaud and commend the choice of someone that stands for righteousness in the face of adversity and before the connection is attempted to be made I DO NOT admonish the ill treatment of any people no matter what their preferences are.

    December 17, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  2. Tony

    Absolutely disgusting. I was a huge proponent of Obama, couldn't wait to cast my ballot for him... Maybe I should a voted for Nader instead...

    December 17, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. George in Florida

    I too voted for Obama as being the best of a bad bunch of poor choices and I am dissapointed.

    In fact, I have been disappointed with many of his choices so far and very much so with his evasiveness regarding Blagojevich.

    He seems to be turning out to be just another politician doing whatever he finds expedient.

    I don't think I know who he really is or what he stands for.

    God help us.

    December 17, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  4. Suzi

    PE Obama has a committement to unity so I'm puzzled by this choice, too.

    I will also give the PE the benefit of the doubt. It's not a cabinet position - Warren's just speaking during the inauguration.

    It's exhausting to get hysterical about every bit of news about Obama. He has an incredible job ahead of them. I think we need to focus on the important issues - or more likely, clean up our own act and see what we can do in our own lives, our own town, our own jobs to make life better.

    December 17, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. What?

    Barack, I'm really disappointed in this. As a supporter and contributor to your campaign, why do you select such ideologues?

    This guy is a joke.

    December 17, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  6. Frank

    For years, Billy Graham gave the invocation, and as far as I know, there was never any major opposition, despite the fact that his views are almost certainly similar, if not identical, to those of Rev. Warren, regarding abortion and gay marriage. Rick Warren has a right to his views, which I seriously doubt will be expressed publicly at the inauguration. Everybody take a deep breath and chill. Rick Warren is not Hitler.

    December 17, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. PA System

    What a revelation!

    December 17, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  8. Aida Smite

    I am a liberal and I am definitely disappointed in the President-Elect's decision. He may think what he's doing is pleasing everyone, but he is disappointing many who voted for him (around 36 million people). Just because someone looks like a friendly teddy bear doesn't mean they are one. Rick Warren is a religious fanatic and should not be any part of a movement towards a more secular society. Agreeing with Warren is like agreeing that all in the LBGT community are going to hell and burning forever-not very cool at all.

    December 17, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  9. Josh

    I already regret my vote....

    December 17, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. Ivan

    I echo the words of Joseph from LA. This is a disappointing move on Obama's part. For a man who seemed middle -of-the-road generally, The choice of a falwell type toad is shocking. Control, Obama! You're slipping up.

    December 17, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. dbcrum

    Kathryn Kolbert when interviewed by CNN said "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"

    Sorry Miss Kolbert but 'mainstream American values' have a consistent overwhelming majority poll after poll saying no to gays and less than 2% support gay marriage!

    I would rather have Warren in the pulpit than radical, hate filled Rev Wright!

    December 17, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  12. god bless the US

    At least it's not rev wright

    December 17, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  13. John

    Religion has no place in government. The is no reason for this nutcase or any other to be stumping!

    December 17, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  14. Eric, TN

    Why is there a need for an invocation? The USA is a secular nation; read the Article 6, Section 3 (and the 1st Amendment) of the US Constitution for more info.

    December 17, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Randy of Cleveland

    I am liberal democrat. But, I love the selection of Pastor Warren. No I don't agree with a lot of his positions. But, that is the beauty of it, he is a man of God like myself. So what if our view point our different, we do live in a country in which you can have your own view point, right? It's great to see the President Elect be open to everyone, not just people that agree with him!

    December 17, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  16. Jay

    Any way you cut this, it is a disgusting choice for Obama to make.

    Gay rights is not an "opinion" based issue. Would anyone take issue if Obama chose a professed racist? What about an anti-semite? How about a religious leader who professes male or female dominance in society?

    Even if these views represent people in our society, it does NOT make them right. Nor does it mean they should be given attention by the President of the United States. By doing this, Obama is making it clear that he believes gays do not deserve the right to marry.

    I wonder what his stance would have been 50 years ago? Do you think Obama believes mixed-races should be allowed to marry? It was unheard of until very recently in human history. But that didn't make it right, or just.

    Obama should rethink this choice. And for the record I am a straight male. I believe in equality.

    December 17, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  17. lone dove

    MK : very well said,Obama is the president of all americans not the left
    or the right.
    Mark: you are just a stupid racist person,if you do not agree with the majority of the americans who vote for Obama,then move some where else,this is a free country,nobody is holding you back,let me give you a hint where you can move to,how about Alaska,it next to russia,if you still not happy all you have to do is swim to russia from Alaska

    December 17, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  18. Greg

    Obama is going to lead our country as a centrist. The liberals need to realize that their stand on the positions are not held by the majority of Americans.

    December 17, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  19. Eugene

    Please, folks, don't get hyper in your diaper. Do you expect Jeremiah Wright? It's time to gather the country together, and cut Obama slack for reaching out to all on his Inauguration Day.

    December 17, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  20. Dave, Illinois

    Hey Adam, MikeH, and Daniel – your idiots. Go upstairs and do some chores for mommy and cool down.

    December 17, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  21. rotil

    "consistent mainstream American values?"....last time I checked the polls most mainstream Americans are still conservatives...get over it, gay rights have come a long way but it hasn't gotten that far.....acting like its a big deal just fuels the hatred, just show people your not crying out to be treated different and people will begin to care about something more important or relevant.....

    December 17, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  22. kelli

    Kathryn Kolbert said that Warren's ideas were "radical", and I was surprised that the group she represents is "People for the American Way". I actually had to reread the paragraph because I thought she was against gay rights. I totally respect my gay friend's choice of lifestyle, and it isn't even a conversation anymore. BUT, being GAY is the radical idea here. Secondly, it misrepresents the "American Way", which I have always took to mean that we are respectful and understanding and tolerant of other's choices, not that we're all gay. I'm still waiting for an answer from my gay friends about what is natural about being gay, anyway, because I tried it and it was almost as boring as showering with a mirror. Lastly, it's Barack's invocation, so he can pick who he wants. Let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with being gay, or NOT being gay. For pete's sake, people, get a grip.

    December 17, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  23. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Mistake #2...... the first error was handing the grasping Hillary a cabinet post.

    December 17, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  24. SHERRY WV

    He should have picked the good reverend Wright.

    December 17, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  25. MikeH

    If Lauren had a cranium she would have fecal boli in it too.

    December 17, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
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